The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is a Rousing Spy Thriller

Alex Pettyfer, Alan Ritchson, Henry Cavill, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Henry Golding in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (Lionsgate)

Director Guy Ritchie has made a name for himself as one of the most stylish directors working in Hollywood. His films are usually loaded with crafty special effects, non-linear story structure, and hard-hitting action sequences. But with his latest film, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, Ritchie takes a step back from his stylized gimmicks and gives us a relatively straightforward film about a top-secret mission by British special operatives in during World War II. The result is an entertaining and bloody spy thriller.

Based on a true story from recently declassified files from the British War Department, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare tells the story of the first-ever special forces organization formed during WWII by Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Rory Kinnear of Men) and a small group of military officials including Brigadier Gubbins ‘M’ (Cary Elwes, seen last year in Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part 1) and James Bond author Ian Flemming (Freddie Fox from House of the Dragon).

The mission was called Operation Postmaster and it involved a group of special British operatives attempting to eliminate a Nazi supply boat that held supplies for the U-Boats. The elimination of this boat would give the Atlantic back to the Allies and change the landscape of the war. The rambunctious group was led by Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill returning after Argylle) and he was joined by Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson, recently the star of Ordinary Angels), Freddy Alvarez (Last Christmas‘s Henry Golding), Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin of The Woman King), Geoffrey Appleyard (the long-lost Alex Pettyfer), Marjorie Stewart (Ambulance‘s Eiza González) and Heron (Bas Olusanmokun of the Dune series).

Henry Cavill in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (Lionsgate)
Henry Cavill in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. Image courtesy of Lionsgate.

The first half of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is slower than what we’ve come to expect from a Guy Ritchie film, yet it is gripping to watch. While there are a few action sequences, Ritchie focuses most of this half on establishing the plot, setting the stakes, and having us learn about the characters. The film opens with March-Phillips and his team joyfully and skillfully taking down several men who try and commandeer their boat in a violent barrage of guns and knives. It sets the tone for the film and establishes that these men are good at their jobs in unorthodox ways. 

Ritchie effectively sets up everything we need to know to make the final set piece of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare work. We get to spend time with March-Phillips and his crew and get to know them. We see their comradery, learn how long they’ve worked together, and see how skilled they are as military men. Stewart and Heron are posted on the island where the Nazi supply boat is and we watch as they conjure up their sneaky plan to help March-Phillips while also trying to stay incognito on an island full of dangerous Nazis, the most dangerous being Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger, who most notably played Hugo Stiglitz in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, a film that many might compare this one too), who is known across the island for his violent and heinous torturing techniques. The group of good-looking special operatives, led by Cavill, flexing his movie star potential, have great chemistry together. They have infectious chemistry together and through their constant quips, you understand their trust and respect for one another.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare‘s major set piece, when Operation Postmaster gets into motion, is one of Ritchie’s finest moments as a director. It is a slick, thrilling sequence that finds our group of special operatives mowing down dozens of Nazis with smiles on their faces as they execute their plan to perfection with ease. Bullets, knives, axes, and explosions are aplenty during this scene and your heart races as the Nazis get closer and closer to sabotaging their plan. While Ritchie veered away from his stylish tendencies for the film, he has a history of making movies about confident men doing cool things. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare features arguably the most confident characters he’s ever had doing arguably the coolest thing anyone has done.

Written by Kevin Wozniak

Kevin is a film critic and writer from the suburbs of Chicago. He is a member of the Chicago Indie Critics, Online Film & Television Association, and Internet Film Critics Society. He usually writes movie reviews and lists of Film Obsessive.

You can find more of Kevin's work at

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