John Madden returns to WWII after 20 years to present a solid film that has nothing to do with that ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’. This time he has bet on insurance: a good spy plot, to which History deflates the part of intrigue that it should have, and two top-tier actors, Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen, that already ensure that the minimum result is more than acceptable.
The film could have been shot quietly 20 or 40 years ago, since it responds more to the keys of the cinema of that time than to that of now, more focused on the viewer not having a break than on offering intellectual entertainment. Here the action that could have is dispensed with so as not to be distracted from the fundamental thing that the story is. Because The film is fundamentally that, the story of one of the greatest military deceptions in history.
With the Second World War already advanced (1943) and with the Germans in retreat on the Eastern Front, Stalin urged his allies to open a second front in the west, but they feared that a failure of a frontal assault on France would lengthen terrible way the war chose to open a beachhead in Europe through the Mediterranean. With all eyes on Sicily, an obvious and well-defended objective, the mission of the British secret services was convince the Nazis that the landing would be in Greece. This is the account of how that plan was originated, developed and executed.
Colin Firth, a safe value
This is an actor’s movie where the performances are far above the rest. Colin Firth, like Tom Hanks, belongs to that select bunch that is capable of making any role believable. In this case, he plays the intelligence officer responsible for the operation, a man tormented by a complicated marital relationship and who becomes emotionally involved with another of the team members, Kelly Macdonald. The third leg of this impossible love triangle is Matthew Macfadyen, whose work is on a par with Firth’s.
Although the heart of ‘El Arma del Deceit’ is Operation Carne Picada, the film’s original title but of little appeal in Spain, there is several subplots that open but do not finish taking the necessary flight. On the one hand, Firth is influenced by his brother’s political tendencies, and the intelligence service itself distrusts him. It is not the first time that he has faced this double game, it already happened to him in ‘El topo’ playing Bill Haydon. On the other hand, there is the relationship between the three protagonists, which creates a tension that even exceeds that of the operation itself.
The rest is a succession of tests to be overcome and in which there is no lack of a dose of black humor, very British. The tape allows some winks like the inclusion of Ian Fleming, creator of 007, who for many was the intellectual author of the hoax and that during some scenes he tells how he is writing a spy novel. The character of Admiral John Fofrey, played by the well-known Jason Isaacs, is clearly inspired by “M” or vice versa. Despite its more than hours of footage and the fact that it is not a film in which there are tension peaks, Madden manages to make the plot well enough so that it does not take long.
Special mention deserves the interpretations of two national actors, Pedro Casablanc and Jospe Tosar, who make the part of the story that takes place in Spanish lands more credible and that it is the most absurd of all and whose tone is closer to comedy. Here Madden even changes the rhythm of the film by opting for shorter and brighter shots.
As for the direction of photography, the dark tone of the exterior scenes facilitates the recreation of a London threatened by the Germans, while making very academic use of the shots in the many conversations that take place between the characters. About the BSO, which falls to the renowned Thomas Newman, solvently accompanies the story, betting on remaining in a discreet background.
‘The weapon of deception’ is a A classic film, with a true story told in a quite entertaining way and in which the performances ensure a more than remarkable level of quality. If you have to put a but, it is that the possible moments of tension are resolved almost immediately and that the subplots, such as that of the communist spy, hardly have any weight.