During WW2 the British decided to launch a joint force invasion of Sicily to remove the Italian army from the war, causing the fall of Mussolini and German resources to be reallocated from other theatres of war.
Unfortunately, the choice of Sicily was obvious and therefore the British secret services were tasked by Churchill to double down on their disinformation efforts, to persuade German high command the real attack would originate in Greece.
Ewan Montagu (Colin Firth) a recently “retired” barrister ostensibly working in Military supplies, ordering paper clips and so forth but in actuality works as part of the Secret Services. Having packed his family off to America to avoid any potential Jewish reprisals should England lose the war, he commits fully to his task.
Finding common ground with Charles Cholmonerley (Matthew Macfadyen) and Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn) they resurrect a plan, “Trojan Horse”. A scheme involving the use of a corpse floated into neutral territory rife with spies, in the hope the carefully curated documents found on the body will find their way to Hitler. Ideally causing a change in enemy plans, reducing the expected resistance in Sicily.
Sounds like a completely mad “boys own” type of adventure but very much based on fact. Confirming politics and personal ambition are nothing new, a sceptical Admiral Godfrey (Jason Isaacs) eventually presents the plan to Churchill (Simon Russell Beale), seemingly on the basis of claiming success or redistributing blame, dependant on the outcome.
Once agreed the seemingly easy task of finding a corpse in midst of a World War proves more difficult than initially thought. Once secured, the team start on the creation of a detailed believable persona, with suitably aged and appropriate documents to support a drowned mid ranking military man.
Eventually “Major William Martin, RM” is born and the plan is put into action.
Firth looks and acts the part of a Naval Officer without effort, admittedly he gets the best uniform and Flynn fits the part of the budding novelist Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame). Despite good acting, Macfadyen looks uncomfortable in his RAF outfit and requisite moustache, his part being a harder ask. Playing a character unlucky in love within the shadow of his hero brother, his character fails to fit quite as easily as others.
The film tacks on a gentle love-story, presumably added to include more female representation lacking otherwise. Kelly Macdonald is always strong in every part and does not disappoint here, adding far more than was on the page. Macdonald is ably supported by another strong performance from Penelope Wilton, who always adds a depth of acting experience to the mix.
Production values are relatively low key and obviously there is no “action” as such and all the better for that, with plenty of well played dialogue.
A great story based on fact with a solid if not inspired screenplay, arguably not mining every nuance and potential from the fantastical premise but remains a solid way to spend a couple of hours with great actors.