What do you get when you cross Inglorious Basterds with The Dirty Dozen and add just a pinch of Suicide Squad? Well, the answer is apparently The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. The newest Guy Ritchie film hits theaters this week to tackle this historically unexplored, pseudo-James Bond prequel. Intriguing, right? Read on. 

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare follows a group of ne’er-do-well misfits tasked by the British government with a super-secret, covert mission. Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to sabotage the German U-boat operation in the early days of World War II. Henry Cavill, Alan Richson, Alex Pettyfer, Elza González, Henry Goulding, and Babs Olusanmokun co-star in the movie. Guy Ritchie directs The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare from a script he co-wrote with Paul Tamsay, Eric Johnson, and Arash Amel. 

Henry Cavil looks back at the camera as he works on the dock of a fishing boat in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Diving right in, the relatively crowded script’s tongue is planted firmly (and enjoyably!) in its cheek… at least when it’s focused, that is. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is very much a tale of two movies. The story is at its plucky best when following Cavill and his team. Not only are the actors having a blast, but there is plenty of banter to fuel the fun. While the character development is not entirely there, these fun performances cover a wide range of sins. 

RELATED: Movie Review: Challengers

Sadly, these sins are on full display when the film ventures away from this core group. González and Olusanmokun in particular are hung out to dry by the screenplay. Large portions of the movie follow these characters as they perform necessary covert espionage support. Unfortunately, though, the movie struggles to handle these characters with the same polish as the main group. Both performers seem present largely to function as exposition machines. As a result, these sequences stop the movie dead in the most frustrating way possible.

In fact, the script seems to have no idea what to do with González as Marjorie. There’s some fascinating character depth hinted at over various points throughout the film. However, her only on-screen purpose is to serve as a relatively run-of-the-mill honeypot dragged down by inconsistent writing. This film, it seems, knows its priority is the core cast, but with its current structure, maintaining an entertaining pace and tone is a challenge. 

Alan Richson looks up at the camera as he loads a weapon.

This is unfortunate when looking over the movie’s IMDB page. One thing leaps out in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, this cast is a bevy of delightfulness from top to bottom. This of course starts with Henry Cavill who continues to gel with Guy Ritchie. Is Cavill the filmmaker’s muse?  The partnership remains fruitful for both as Cavill appears to be having more fun than we’ve seen him have in a long time. 

RELATED: Movie Review: Civil War

At the same time, the film puts together a cast that is certainly, a Guy Ritchie dream team. Henry Goulding deserves far more love than he gets. Alan Richson once again shows why he’s an up-and-coming star of action cinema. Even the supporting cast is stacked with names like Cary Elwes, Rory Kinnear, Freddie Fox and James Wilby in supporting roles. This is a group any Anglophile will salivate over.

Meanwhile, Ritchie brings a highly stylized aesthetic to the action elements. Throughout the film, the action is fast-paced and hard-hitting. At the same time though, everything is also deceptively easy for our stars. This has two competing effects. It does play effectively into setting up the film’s quippy, tongue-in-cheek tone. However, the audience never ends up worrying about the “good guys.” They’ll get through it! In fact, it takes until mid-way through the third act for them to struggle with anything. For such a dangerous mission, nothing is ever that hard… or bloody, for that matter.

Henry Cavill stares at the camera as Alex Pettyfer looks on from the background.

When all is said and done, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is frustrating. This is 80 percent of a good movie with some fun highs, but with that, there are some truly flat lows. Guy Ritchie and Henry Cavill are a match made in heaven… it’s just unfortunate the film can’t seem to hold its focus.

While this could certainly be a product of having to do deference to historical subject matter, the end result is unfortunately that the film sags under the weight of its script. Fans of this talented cast should definitely add this to their lists, but it’s difficult to promise that Ritchie’s legions of fans will enjoy this uneven historical thriller. 

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is playing in theaters now.  

Check out our other movie reviews, here

Movie Review: ABIGAIL

Kimberly Pierce
Follow Me