‘The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare’ Is a Wonderful, Old-Fashioned Romp That Kills a Lot of Nazis

This movie is even more fun than Eric Metaxas' latest book on Bonhoeffer.

By John Zmirak Published on April 26, 2024

Rated R for strong violence throughout and some language.

It’s one thing to march in person through hostile territory with a small band of fellow Christians — armed only with a big picture of Dietrich Bonhoeffer — to confront demented hatemongers who promote the genocide of millions of Jews. That’s the kind of bold Christian witness against evil you can expect of courageous men like Eric Metaxas and Sean Feucht, who led such a march last night near the current epicenter of idiocy and evil, Columbia University.

Some of us, however, aren’t made of such stern stuff. If you’re a big softy like me, the kind of person who fled his native blue city for the relative safety of Texas and never would have gone north of 96th Street for any reason at all, then you have to get your anti-Nazi thrills secondhand. For instance, you get get them by reading Metaxas’s powerful new book, Religionless Christianity, as I’m doing. (More on that in a future review.) In it, Metaxas unpacks what Bonhoeffer was actually teaching his fellow German Christians about the stern demands of genuine faith (when he wasn’t organizing them to assassinate Adolf Hitler).

 

One way I procrastinate instead of reading powerful and spiritually challenging books is going to movies, with the excuse that I might review them so I’m actually “doing research,” not goofing off at Alamo Drafthouse with a big bucket of popcorn. And the movie I saw was a doozy — an old-fashioned World War II romp of the sort we Gen Xers grew up on (think The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, and The Great Escape). Those movies were made back when Hollywood didn’t insist that Western civilization was evil, Brits weren’t trying to tear down statues of Winston Churchill for not being woke enough, and there was a general consensus that ethnically cleansing Jewish people was a Very Bad Thing.

Britain Stood Alone

Guy Ritchie’s exciting, dramatic, witty and fast-flowing film depicts the origins of the British secret services, at the low point in the Battle of Britain, when that country stood alone facing down Germany.

France had fallen, the U.S. was stubbornly neutral, and Stalin was still Hitler’s ally, shipping him vast resources and promoting “peace groups” in America. It was then that Churchill tasked a small band of warriors (overseen by a young Ian Fleming) with conducting secret, desperado raids against high-value German targets.

In this film, loosely based on real historical events and genuine British heroes, Britain is desperate to stop the Nazi U-boat blockade that is threatening to starve the island nation out. High-placed military figures and political colleagues are pressuring Churchill to cut a deal with Hitler. (This really happened, and only Churchill’s unique stubbornness prevented a craven British collapse, as historian John Lukacs documented in the fascinating book Five Days in London, May 1940.)

So a shadowy group of secret soldiers loyal to Churchill undertakes a daring plan: They will recruit a band of commandos to sail on a fishing boat to the Spanish island of Fernando Po, where the Germans refuel and repair those deadly U-boats now wreaking havoc. The team is led by a dashing, devil-may-care soldier (played by the politically ridiculous but talented Henry Cavill), and includes the kind of “expendables” we’ve come to expect in movies like this: rogues, borderline criminals, insubordinate brawlers, but fearless warriors — exactly the kind of picaresque heroes you need in such a pinch.

An ‘Inglorious’ Nazi Hunt

Part of their team on the ground is a wily and charismatic African with connections (played brilliantly by Star Trek: Brave New World’s Babs Olusanmokun), a stunning femme fatale of German Jewish origin (Eiza González, who could be Jennifer Connelly’s younger sister), and a huge killer Swede (Alex Pettyfer) with a personal grudge against the Germans: they murdered his brother, so he’s out to “collect as many Nazi hearts as possible.”

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The film is free of gratuitous nudity or cringeworthy sex scenes. It’s unapologetically violent, though without needless gore. (If you can’t sit back and enjoy the spectacle of Brits killing actual Nazis, then there really is something wrong with you.) The film has much the same tone as Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Bastards, except that it’s not a goofy fantasy. At the end you see the actual photographs of the genuine heroes depicted (with poetic license) on the screen — one of whom supposedly inspired Fleming’s iconic character, James Bond.

I had a great time at this movie, which hearkens back to a more confident, less demonic moment in our culture, when there was a solid consensus on our campuses and in our country that murdering the innocent was wrong.

Now I have to get back to Eric’s book, dismantling my cherished legalism. Sheesh.

 

John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or coauthor of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. His newest book is No Second Amendment, No First.

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