Guy Ritchie, the director of such cockney-rhyming crime capers as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch is teaming up with the acclaimed producer of Top Gun, Jerry Bruckheimer, to make a World War II flick about Britain’s first black ops unit.
Titled Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, the film is based on a book by the same name from author Damien Lewis. The film, like the book, will follow the creation and efforts of a unit of British commandos in 1939 who were tasked with operating behind enemy lines and taking out key targets in occupied territory at great personal risk. Under Winston Churchill’s direction, the unit tossed out the rulebook when it came to Britain’s accepted rules of ‘gentlemanly warfare’ — hence their unofficial title.
The actual unit upon which the film is based was officially designated as Special Operations Executive, though the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare certainly has a better ring to it. The SOE recruited a rough and tumble, rough around the edges, assortment of soldiers who were molded into a highly skilled military unit that operated outside the typical chain of command. They were directed to build up local resistance cells, carry out sabotage and assassinations, and generally, just deal as much damage as possible to enemy forces as possible, in order to force the Third Reich to devote additional resources and manpower to the areas in which they operated. But each mission came with incredible risk, and it was largely assumed, and accepted, that it was only a matter of time before they were captured and killed, at which point they would be disavowed by the government that sent them.
Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a better director for a movie about the so-named Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare than Ritchie, who’s best known for his gritty and witty gangster flicks that seamlessly blend violence, action, and suspense with excellent banter, hilarious dialogue, and memorable characters. His ability to pair deliberate pacing with superb dialogue seem perfectly tailored to a World War II caper about a tight-knit band of highly skilled operators — with the occasional oddball and eccentric character toss in — who are dispatched behind enemy lines to sow confusion, take out key targets, and strike relentlessly from the shadows, leaving chaos in their wake.
And Bruckheimer’s track record of helping to create wildly popular military blockbusters is apparent with Top Gun, not to mention his role in producing Black Hawk Down. Chad Oman joins Bruckheimer in producing the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare for Jerry Bruckheimer Films. Paramount studios, which has had the rights to the book since 2015, will oversee the project overall.
The news about Ritchie and Bruckheimer teaming up on the upcoming film was first reported by Deadline. So far, Arash Amel (A Private War), Eric Johnson and Paul Tamasy (The Fighter), have joined on as screenwriters alongside Lewis, the author of the book, and Ritchie. The film is still in pre-production and details on casting and a tentative release date are still unclear.
Feature image: A photo showing members of Special Operations Executive during a demolitions class, circa 1943-1944. (Photo via National Archives and Records Administration)