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The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

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In Theaters


Home Release Date




Bob Hoose

Movie Review

It’s WWII, and German forces certainly seem to have the upper hand. They’re sweeping through Europe like a hot knife through butter. And they rule the seas. Anyone who even attempts to ship munitions or supplies to a beleaguered England is quickly sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic by a wily U-boat pack.

In fact, the situation is so dire that the British Parliament and its military leaders are ready to accept Hitler’s demands. And so they approach Prime Minister Winston Churchill to officially capitulate.

But Churchill isn’t a bulldog who readily throws in the towel. In fact, he’d rather give it a thorough chew first. And there’s one slim possibility for England to prevail: They just need to break the rules a bit.

Churchill authorizes a seasoned and currently jailed rule-breaker, Gus March-Phillips, to pull together a team of highly skilled, unruly soldiers to head off on a secret mission. They’ll slip into a neutral port in Africa and take out a ship that delivers vital supplies to the Nazi fleet of submarines.

Take that supply chain out, and Britian might just be able to create enough space for American ships to bring the help and supplies the desperately isolated country so urgently needs.

Of course, espionage and military destruction carried out in a neutral nation flies in the face of International laws and agreements. And the British officials calling for surrender will scream to high heaven if they find out what Churchill is planning.

But frankly, Nazi Germany has been flaunting its disregard for the laws of independent nations for some time now. And if Hitler isn’t going to play by the gentlemanly rules of war … then neither will Churchill.

He can only hope this March-Phillips fellow is as deviously ungentlemanly as they say he is.

Positive Elements

There are clear-cut good guys and bad guys here.

Sure, March-Phillips and his crew muddy (and bloody) the morality lines at times with their joyful death-dealing. But they’re still fighting against Nazi soldiers and sailors. And the movie itself depicts a struggle for the very survival of Britian.

(The story itself is based on Winston Churchill’s personal files that were declassified in 2016. And it’s revealed during the credits that the real March-Phillips was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s iconic superspy James Bond. Fleming himself was a British Naval Intelligence officer during the events of this film and plays a minor role here.)

Spiritual Elements

An undercover agent named Marjorie Stewart talks with a Nazi officer and defends the plight of the Jews under German rule. She even states that she is a Jew. But then she laughs the statement off as a joke. Later, though, this officer realizes that her claim was true.

Sexual Content

When German sailors board their boat, March-Phillips and his muscular crewmate, Anders, feign being gay. Later, Anders makes another gay quip in the direction of a different member of their group. (The dialogue perhaps suggests that Anders actually is gay, but nothing else in the movie confirms that suspicion.)

Marjorie Stewart is assigned the duty of keeping a dangerous Nazi named Heinrich Luhr busy. She does so with her smarts and feminine wiles—wearing very revealing dresses that barely cover her shapely form. She flirts seductively.

An agent named Heron pays a prostitute to keep someone busy during a party.

Violent Content

Early on we learn that March-Phillips chose his team based on their particular skillsets. Anders, also known as the Danish Hammer, was chosen because of his encyclopedic knowledge of ways to kill. And his rapid-fire use of arrows, blades, an axe and hand-to-hand brutal moves is showcased here. He inflicts many an opponent with slashed-open and spurting wounds, while impaling others. His victims, accordingly, spit, gush and dribble gore.

Anders also takes to cutting the heart out of a German soldier’s chest (offscreen). He also declares that he’s not going to leave the battle until he has a barrel full of hearts.

That’s only the tip of the bloody iceberg, however. Throw the rest of the team into the action, and throats are slashed open; men are stabbed repeatedly in the neck and upper body; and people are broken and thumped about in myriad ways.

For instance, a man is smashed headfirst through a glass window and then his neck is driven down onto the remaining glass shards. Grenades are tossed into enclosed bunkers of men. Dozens of soldiers are shot by pistols and repeating rifles. (In some cases, shot in the forehead, face or temple.)

We also see evidence of torture in the form of a heavily blooded naked man hanging by his hands from the ceiling. (His back is to the camera.) Another man is strung up and has battery-connected electrodes puncture his bloodied nipples. Someone moves to chain up and torture Marjorie in a similar fashion before being interrupted. An angry man crushes a lit cigarette in his fist.

Massive gun battles and explosive detonations are a part of the action, too. Huge fuel tanks erupt. Various ships and submarines are sunk by planted explosives. And an entire German base and a port are torn apart by explosive charges and shells.

Crude or Profane Language

There are two f-words in the dialogue and one misuse of Jesus’ name. Someone spits out the British crudity “bugger.”

Drug and Alcohol Content

This being the late 1930s, nearly everyone smokes. So we see all of the leads and surrounding characters puffing cigarettes, cigars and pipes. Many people also knock back glasses of free-flowing alcohol throughout the film.

A key espionage agent throws separate parties, for instance, for the German officers and their military charges. The officers all drink scotch and mixed drinks, the sailors and soldiers are given beer. (We see several British officials, including Churchill, drinking glasses of alcohol as well.) Several people in the course of the film get very drunk.

Other Negative Elements

A few crude jokes make the mix.


Early on in The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, Henry Cavill’s character, Gus March-Phillips, encourages his small band of seasoned battlers as they prepare to carve their way through a German camp filled with soldiers. “Remember gentlemen,” he grins, “try to have fun!”

And that’s precisely what director Guy Ritchie does with this war film as a whole. Yes, there’s actual history in the mix: a true story of secret WWII espionage, heroes and gritty bravery. But it’s cocooned in a thick, bubble-wrap layer of breezy action and winking, Hollywood-style bravado.

That’s not to say that this pic isn’t fun. It’s buoyed by likeable characters and a sardonic script. However, there’s the warfare part of the title to be aware of, too.

Ungentlemanly Warfare’s visceral stabbing, riddling, slashing, exploding and chop-‘em-with-an-axe bloodletting will undoubtedly leave some quailing. And there are a couple of coarse language bombs dropped along the way as well.

In closing, let’s just say I certainly wouldn’t recommend that youthful family members use this film as background research for a school history paper.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.