The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Posted on April 17, 2024 at 8:08 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for some language and strong violence throughout
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking and drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Extensive wartime violence with guns, knives, arrows, explosions, many characters killed, many graphic and disturbing sounds and images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: April 19, 2024

It is a perfect match of story and director. Guy Ritchie is at his best in high-energy stories of very attractive men with mad fighting skills and no hesitation in using them. In between shoot-outs, explosions, and high crimes, casually toss off understated quips and references to the playing fields of Eton. This is a true story with exactly those components, plus a ton of nameless Nazis and one guy who is described as even worse than a Nazi, so killing them is as close to guilt-free as possible. He has a lot of fun with it.

Copyright Lionsgate 2024

The group of highly skilled renegades are described in the book that inspired this film as the first special forces military operatives. And we hear the British commanders explain that if Hitler isn’t following the rules, they won’t either. “They’re all bad,” warns one. “They’ll need to be,” responds another.

Of course that means they do not obey orders, either, but that’s what you get when you get a man out of prison to put together a group of cut-throats and renegades, one who is also in prison, but in his case being tortured in a German POW camp. Their mission is to go to the Ivory Coast and sink the supply ship that services the U-boats in the Atlantic Ocean.

On to the strategy, the revising of the strategy when things go wrong, the stunts, the shoot-outs, the action-banter, remix and repeat, plus a thumpy score with some cowboy twang by Christopher Benstead.

Cavill, formerly clean-cut and dashing as Superman and in the under-appreciated “The Man From UNCLE,” is even better in scruffy mode here as Gus March-Phillips. “Reacher’s” Alan Ritchson and “Crazy Rich Asian’s” Henry Golding also seem to be enjoying a chance to have some fun with their roles. The team needs some back-up help from undercover operatives, which is where we get to enjoy Babs Olusanmokun as Heron, who runs the local nightclub and “Third Body Problem’s” Eiza González as Majorie Stewart, sultry singer, sharpshooter, and, as a cover, gold smuggler.

And then there is the bad guy, described by Heron as “the only guy worse than a Nazi,” the cruel local commanding officer, (Til Schweiger), providing additional menace and urgency as the final operation becomes complicated and chaotic. Ritchie gets lost in the bombast and is too cheery about the carnage. He has no time for character or emotional heft beyond our feelings based on what we know about the history. There’s no substance, but it is entertaining.

Worth mentioning: a senior office in charge, played by “The Princess Bride’s” Cary Elwes, is known as M and one of the junior officers is a young Ian Fleming, played by Freddie Fox. Yes, that Ian Fleming, and the closing credits tell us that he got some of his ideas for James Bond from this experience.

Parents should know that this is an extremely violent film set in wartime, with a lot of guns, knives, arrows, and explosions, some torture, prostitutes and implied sexual abuse, with many disturbing and graphic sounds and images. Characters use strong language and there is drinking and drunkenness.

Family discussion: What rules work during a war? Why aren’t all military operations conducted this way? How is war today different from this story?

If you like this, try: the book by Damien Lewis (the writer, not the actor) and films like “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Guns of Navarone”

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Beastly

Posted on March 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm

It’s the great challenge for all the versions of “Beauty and the Beast” that no one seems able to overcome: the beast is always a far more interesting, appealing, and yes, attractive character than the good-looking but bland prince he wants so desperately to return to. When handsome, wealthy, arrogant prep school senior Kyle (“I Am Number Four’s Alex Pettyfer) is cursed by a witch his “beast” face, covered with exotic scars and tattoos, is more expressive and somehow more real than the pretty boy he was before.

In this latest re-telling of the French fairy tale that dates back to the 18th century, Kyle gets into trouble when he runs for the presidency of the school’s Green Club even though he admits in his campaign speech that he is only doing it because it will look good on his college applications. “Don’t vote for me for my commitment to the environment,” he tells his fellow students. “I don’t have one.” Despite an opposing speech from a gothy-looking girl named Kendra (Mary Kate Olsen), he is elected. But beating her isn’t enough. He plays a cruel prank on Kendra, humiliating her in front of her classmates. And so she curses him. He will look like a beast, as ugly on the outside as he is on the inside, unless within one year he can persuade someone to say, “I love you.”

His father (Peter Krause of “Parenthood” and “Sports Night”) is a television personality who believes that “people like people who look good.” He finds an apartment for Kyle with a housekeeper (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a blind tutor (the always-terrific Neil Patrick Harris) to care for him and leaves him alone. Kyle sulks and refuses to talk to anyone for five months. (In one of the movie’s cleverest conceits, everyone at school accepts his absence without question because they think he is at rehab.) But Lindy, the quiet scholarship student (“High School Musical’s” Vanessa Hudgens) gives him a reason to want to go out. And more important, she gives him a reason to think about someone else — taking care of her and being close to her. She gives him a reason to want to be liked. And that means being seen.

I liked the way the story plays with the framework of the fairy tale, giving Lindy a reason to have to move into Kyle’s place, isolating them both.

 

Pettyfer, a very limited performer in his earlier films, has a looser, more confident, more genuine feel here. He even handles Kyle’s funny lines well; he admits how he found the poem he wants to share with Lindy: “I Googled ‘modern poetry’ and ‘impress girls.'” In an era of bullies and mean girls, “Gossip Girls” and “Pretty Little Liars,” it’s nice to have such a tenderhearted fairy tale.

(more…)

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