‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ is Bitterly Plain (Review)

by | Apr 19, 2024

The latest action film from Guy Ritchie fails to live up to its full potential. 

When The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was announced with Guy Ritchie attached to direct, you could see the potential. When you combine a filmmaker who has mostly delivered on midlevel budget action films with great casts with a story about killing Nazis, what’s there not to love about the film? Add in someone like Alan Ritchson, who is one of the hottest names in Hollywood right now thanks to Prime Video’s Reacher, to the cast and you’ve got something cooking. But what comes out in theaters today is unfortunately not what previews and marketing have led us to believe, which is it what could be a very fun time at the movies. The finished product is unoriginal and devoid of anything to make it stand out amongst the many films we’ve seen set during World War II.   

The plot of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is simple: Winston Churchill deploys a secretive Special Forces unit tasked with taking down Nazi-occupied boats to deplete them of supplies they are attempting to get to their soldiers. This secretive team is made up of a group of individuals who all have one thing in common: they hate Nazis. 

It’s difficult not to compare this film to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, given they each revolve around killing Nazis. But what Tarantino’s hugely successful (and Oscar-winning) film accomplishes is ultimately where Ritchie’s story fails to live up to: it’s just not as fun and enjoyable as you desperately want it to be. None of the characters we are presented in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare are unique. Sure, they may all have a special talent that makes them different from each other, but their backstories, motives, and even their dialogue feel cut and dry. Also, the story itself feels a bit stretched for a film that is almost two hours long. After the opening, which is without a doubt the best part of the film comes and goes, we get an idea of what the story is. But how we get to the climatic third act feels like a slog; what happens throughout the second act, which should’ve required some closely supervised editing, instead turns into a situation that will have you checking the time on your phone more than once. Add in a lame duck, prototypical “even more evil” Nazi as the antagonist and you see why this film has all the typical elements we’ve seen before in this era, which just magnifies how plain this film is. 

It’s a shame that The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare wasn’t fine-tuned for a more entertaining experience, given the cast assembled here. Henry Cavill, who is arguably at a crossroads in his career, leads this film, but is given nothing to really work with other than wanting one of the fancy coats Nazi commanders wear. Alan Ritchson essentially takes his popular Reacher character to the big screen here but with a bow and arrow and nothing else to work with that allows him to stand out. Up-and-comer Henry Golding and beloved actor Cary Elwes play smaller roles in the film, but they too just aren’t given characters with any kind of personality that can even generate a chuckle. As you probably have noticed by now, there is a recurring theme here with all these actors who play their parts but feel like as if they are just going through the motions without any kind of spunk or substance that make them memorable. 

It’s difficult to say whether The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare will be one of those films we can say we will put in the background for any given weekend afternoon. None of the characters stands out, the action feels standard, and even parts of the third act are difficult to actually see because it takes place at night. The finished product was still in desperate need of fine tuning in several areas. It’s baffling to see a film of this level not have better lighting for its most crucial act. I respect Guy Ritchie as a filmmaker. Over the years, he has mostly delivered films on time and within a modest budget that are also enjoyable. However, his latest film fails to achieve the simplest of goals: make a consistently enjoyable film about killing Nazis.



(out of five stars)