‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre’ Review: ‘An Infectious Spy Romp’
In the early 90s, Quentin Tarantino opened the floodgates to a whole new generation of filmmakers making dialogue-rich, heavily stylized features. One of the most significant to come out of the new batch of directors is Guy Ritchie. The English filmmaker broke out onto the scene with instant cult classics like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch. With the debut of his interpretation of Sherlock Holmes in 2009, he’s remained a divisive – though frequently profitable – voice in cinema. Some of his most recent works, adaptations The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, as well as Michael Mann-esque thriller Wrath of Man and comic romp The Gentlemen, have gained their vocal defenders. This is company I’m proud to keep. His latest, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, joins the list of Ritchie flicks that I’ll gladly sing the praises of.
Operation Fortune, whose subtitle Ruse de Guerre means “ruse of war”, is classic spy fun. Starring Jason Statham as superspy Orson Fortune, yet another in a long line of silver screen badasses he’s portrayed, Operation Fortune follows the theft of a mysterious device known as “The Handle”. Pulling Fortune out of his vacation, British intelligence official Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) sets him up with snarky maverick Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) to retrieve The Handle. Their search leads them to eccentric arms dealer Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant). To figure out the way to track the device, they’ll need to woo Simmonds with his achilles heel – hotshot actor Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett).
Just because the talent involved is having fun doesn’t guarantee quality. Nevertheless, the energy on display from the cast of Operation Fortune is infectious. It’s easy to take Jason Statham for granted, but he is a born leading man if there’s ever been one. Hugh Grant’s Greg Simmonds is yet another in a long line of roles where the former rom-com heartthrob gets to cut loose. More than anything, though, Aubrey Plaza is dynamite- her alternatively deadpan and playful turn is the stuff stars are made of. And what can you say about Josh Hartnett, one of Hollywood’s most underutilized assets? His movie star Danny Francesco devours the scenery around him as a lovable Himbo. You wanna see great actors be real silly, you’ve got this crew with vets like Cary Elwes and lesser-knowns like Bugzy Malone cutting up and having a great time.
It’s like a dare not to have a blast, and this even extends to a bit of an overwrought script! There’s not much rhyme or reason as to why the screenplay bounces us between so many locales. Yet, it’s hardly a problem when these locales are gorgeously shot by Alan Stewart. The “why” of Operation Fortune doesn’t really matter, it’s more about the how. Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies, and Ritchie aren’t out to instill any heavy socio-political commentary as most spy flicks do; they’re here to put on a grand caper. And who’s to blame them? The transparent excuses to simply have a cast of wacky characters bounce off each other aren’t cynical. They’re in the service of entertainment, and the 114-minute runtime flies by like a cool 80.
Guy Ritchie shows that he’s still got the juice to put together a hell of a set piece. Aubrey Plaza trying to hack a computer before getting caught plays like a trashier Mission: Impossible. The car chases are earnestly enjoyable blockbuster fare. Mounting a camera on Statham’s gun as he gets to go hog wild on the adversaries delivers the goods. Basically, this is why we go to these kinds of movies. Guy Ritchie is a showman, and it’s baffling that he hasn’t been poached to make a 007 picture at this point. After the self-seriousness of the Craig films, this feels like a return to a bygone era.
And that’s the mind frame Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre operates in. It may not be the near-masterpiece that Wrath of Man was or the hyperkinetic fantasy pastiche of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but it’s still better than much of modern spy cinema. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre bears the mark of a director who’s been around the block and can do this kind of movie in his sleep. It’s rough around the edges, but if this Guy Ritchie at a slightly lower effort, we’re lucky to have him still making movies. –James Preston Poole
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is in theaters Friday, March 3.