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The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Guy Ritchie's latest is a competently made if unmemorable comedy action flick



Guy Ritchie has hit a prolific stage of his directing career, delivering seven directorial projects in the last five years alone (this counting 2020 which had all major releases postponed). His latest project is another witty action flick that he’s particularly known for, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024).

 

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is loosely based on a true story of a covert operation in 1942 where five ragtag soldiers/criminals are tasked with sinking a German supply ship off the coast of Africa during World War II. The unsanctioned operation is led by the suave Gus (Henry Cavill) and his adept crew Anders (Alan Ritchson), Geoffrey (Alex Pettyfer), Henry (Hero Fiennes Tiffin), and Freddy (Henry Golding). They partner with operatives infiltrating German lines, Heron (Babs Olusanmokun) and Marjorie (Eiza Gonzalez).   

 

Ritchie takes a rather flexible approach to the true story, using the barebones plot of what happened as a basis, and going into his wild stylistic and narrative choices from there. We get the expected Ritchie-isms of smooth action where our protagonists barely break a sweat and have perfect one-liners. Unlike the toxic masculinity displayed in Michael Bay films, Ritchie’s men have a self-effacing approach that thread the balance between satire and style. With the World War II setting and the action-comedy structure, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare will undoubtedly remind many of Inglorious Basterds (2009. This comparison is further hammered home with a final act that seems like a carbon copy, even having a female spy seducing a Nazi commander during a distracting climatic party. Ritchie is able to keep the pace with this Tarantino track maintaining the jokes and action to a satisfying par.

 

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare delivers on the action front with some satisfying choreography and inventive sequences. Ritchson and Cavill have fun using inventive ways to kill enemies, with the former in particular having a blast with a bow and arrow. However, in this respect, our heroes seem to be too adept at dispatching Nazis. This leads to a feeling that there is no difficulty or stakes to their mission. At no point do viewers doubt the success of their mission, as they increasingly resemble Terminator-like invincible machines. This grit and unpredictability was key in maintaining a balance and perspective in Inglorious Basterds and sadly leaves The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare a hollow projection of style and rhythm rather than bringing substance and tension.

 

While The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was never trying to be a character study, it nevertheless is especially shallow in how it distinguishes between different characters. You’d be hard-pressed to remember anyone’s name let alone know anything about their background or motivation. This is covered up largely thanks to the star factor of the cast, their charm and wit gravitating viewers to rooting for them. However, this doesn’t carry to the main Nazi villain (Til Schweiger) who is comically exaggerated. Gonzalez was the only performer that extracted intrigue out of her character, who hides the fact she’s part Jewish. Gonzalez pulls this off while pulling double duty as the obligatory objectifiable female companion of the film, something that sadly is still a necessary component of this comedy action formula.

 

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare continues a retrospective trend in Ritchie’s work, alongside The Gentlemen (2019), of going back to sharp action comedies that launched his career. This film is competently made and charming enough to provide a good time; however, the lack of depth and character work means it is more of a fleeting good time rather than a memorable one.  

6.9/10

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About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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