Review: The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare


Guy Ritchie, as a director, is a man who can deliver perfectly serviceable films. As someone who has seen most of his output over the past five years, I can characteristically classify his films as solid, if unremarkable. If anything, Guy Ritchie does well at playing within a specific wheelhouse and not breaking any conventions. Last year’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre was an effective spy thriller that did its job and nothing more, and the same can be said for The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare.

But there’s a drawback to being effective yet conventional. Sure, you can deliver fully competent movies, ones that don’t either excel or fail in any one particular area, but that also makes Guy Ritchie movies boring to watch and talk about. He pumps out movies at such a rapid pace that they tend to just blend into the background as other, more interesting movies come out. His films feel like the kind of movies that would be played in the surroundings of other movies, and The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare makes a great case for being a background war action comedy that no one will pay attention to.

The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare (2024) Official Trailer - Starring Henry Cavill

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare
Director: Guy Ritchie
Release Date: April 19, 2024 (Theatrical)
Rating: R

Set during World War II and based on the real-life event Operation Postmaster, the film follows Gus March-Phillips (Henry Cavill), a British operative turned convict who has been tasked by the British government with destroying a supply vessel meant to support German U-boats. It’s a clandestine operation that no one is aware of, even the head of the British Navy, and Phillips has to assemble a team of outlaws and rouges to try and pull this off. It won’t be easy, as the team will have to rescue one of its members, played by Alex Pettyfer, before sailing to the small island of Fernando Po off the coast of Africa where the ship is currently stationed. Even then, they’ll have to be careful not to raise the suspicion of the head Nazi Officer stationed there, Heinrich Luhr (Til Schweiger). They will have the support of some undercover British operatives, but if they get caught by anyone, friend or foe, it’s game over.

You’d be mistaken from the first scene of the movie for thinking that this film would be an overt comedy. The scene has Phillips and one of his men, Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson), pretending to be a couple of gay Swedes enjoying a quiet sail in German U-boat-infested waters. Naturally, they’re boarded by a German commanding officer and his crew, who proceed to taunt them and threaten to burn their boat, only for Phillips and his crew to reveal themselves and brutally execute every Nazi on board and blow up their boat. Once the title card popped up, the first thing that came to mind was that The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was attempting to ape Inglorious Bastards HARD.

I’d be totally okay with that for the record. Inglorious Bastards is an excellent war film that wasn’t afraid to have a sick sense of humor about killing Nazis while balancing the tense drama of watching a bunch of covert operatives outwit the Germans. Indeed, The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare is at its best when it decides to just have a sense of humor about itself. Alan Ritchson is the best example of this, playing a gleefully over-the-top mammoth of a man who uses a wooden bow and arrow to kill as many people as possible and literally rip their hearts out of their chests. Is it excessive? Undeniably, but it’s also fun as hell, which really should be the point of a movie like this.

Review: The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Copyright: Lionsgate

Sadly, this high-octane and violent gore accounts for about 10% of the film’s two-hour runtime, with the rest being very mediocre espionage sequences. Most of the film doesn’t even follow Phillips and his band of merry murderers. Most of the time we follow around the two agents already stationed on the island and see how they help get everything set up for their arrival. Despite spending most of the film’s runtime with these two, it’s hard to remember virtually anything about them other than they’re good at gaining the trust of Nazis and finding allies in the area.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare has a severe problem regarding its characters and how they’re presented and set up. Outside of a brief introduction for Phillips and our first meeting with Luhr, most of its characters feel nonexistent and barely present. It’s not even that they come off like stock archetypes meant to fulfill a role or that they have one defining character trait and that’s all that the film focuses on. No, it’s more like each character lacks any real identifying elements about them. I can’t remember a single thing about any character’s name, their personality, or even what their schtick was supposed to be. I remember that Henry Golding was meant to be a demolition expert who nobody likes, but he has absolutely no personality to him whatsoever. We never saw his unlikable character traits that were built up from the beginning and instead, he was just some guy who planted bombs on some ships.

The cast doesn’t even have a lot of time to interact with each other. Most of the film’s runtime has everyone separate from each other, with Phillips and his team slowly sailing to Fernando Po while the spies stationed on the island conduct their business. It genuinely feels like nothing of consequence happened in the middle of the film as we just waited for the actual operation to take place. Even then, when it did eventually occur, there was no tension whatsoever on whether or not the mission succeeded or failed. When there was a kink in the plan due to some last-minute information, I wasn’t curious how they were going to fix it or even worried that the mission would fail. I still knew the Nazis would lose and our heroes would win because it was so conventional that I couldn’t imagine The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare trying to subvert itself in any meaningful way.

Review: The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

Copyright: Lionsgate

I know I’ve seen a lot of bad and mediocre movies so far in 2024, but I think I can safely say that The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was by far the most bland movie I’ve seen this year. There were some moments that I paid attention to, like the casual extreme violence that Henry Cavill’s crew inflicted on the Nazis, and I got a kick when Ian Fleming popped up since he was one of the heads of Operation Postmaster and the men he commanded here served as direct inspiration for James Bond, but the dryness and half-heartedness took the wind out of my sails time and time again. Again, outside of Ritchson, who had a blast and stole the show in every scene he was in, it felt like everyone else had something else on their mind and only kind of cared about making this film.

In the past five years, Guy Ritchie has directed six movies and that shows. Much like how Ridley Scott movies have become this homogenized glob of half-cooked ideas and executions, movies like The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare show why Guy Ritchie needs to pump the breaks on his output. This movie feels like it was built on an assembly line to check all of the boxes for a slightly comedic war movie. It efficiently hits those points and tells its story, but has no personality whatsoever and is quickly forgotten a few days later. This is the movie made for repeat marathons on TV that you just kind of keep on in the background as you do other far more important things. It’s white noise that’s completely inoffensive, but also completely unmemorable.




The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare does have some personality in its action scenes, but when it focuses on traditional espionage thrills, which is the vast majority of the film, it barely registers with the viewer

Jesse Lab
The strange one. The one born and raised in New Jersey. The one who raves about anime. The one who will go to bat for DC Comics, animation, and every kind of dog. The one who is more than a tad bit odd. The Features Editor.