‘Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre’: Guy Ritchie Dresses a Standard Spy Thriller in Glossy Style
After numerous delays we can finally take a dive into “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre,” the latest from director Guy Ritchie. When approaching a Ritchie film, there is always one certainty; the film will look great. On that level there is absolutely no disappointment here. If you make the attempt to dismiss the plot or stop trying to make sense of it, this movie can almost be enjoyed purely on its visuals combined with a rich score by Christopher Benstead. Maybe Ritchie meant this as an (expensive) exercise, feeling greater inspiration in the faces of his stars, the costume designer’s threads and how good a place can look in widescreen. He certainly doesn’t seem to care much for the machinations at play.
Reuniting with Ritchie is Jason Statham, an expert at consistency since he has mastered the stoic, dry action persona that has been his trademark for two decades now. In “Operation Fortune,” Statham plays the bombastically-named Orson Fortune, who is a badass at everything he does, etc. Before we meet him there is the required heist of some secret briefcase containing some instrument that will spread havoc around world markets. British official Knighton (Eddie Marsan) brings in a private contractor, Nathan (Cary Elwes) with the aim of employing his team, which includes Orson, to retrieve the item. The rest of the team’s lineup includes Sarah (Aubrey Plaza), a master hacker who can switch to femme fatale mode, JJ (Bugzy Malone), a well-mannered sniper, and Danny (Josh Hartnett), an action movie star who doubles as a spy. Their mission is to infiltrate the inner circle of a billionaire and arms dealer, Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant), who can lead them to the stolen suitcase.
This is all standard spy action movie material, featuring the quintessential attendance of flashy parties, rooftop chases and confined fist fights. It’s a return to formula for Ritchie and Statham, who recently made the darkly intense “Wrath of Man,” a welcome departure from their norm. “Operation Fortune” avoids being a complete slog because the cast has chemistry and the jokes land better than the undercooked mission. Some of the screenplay by Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies can be a cheeky laugh at how these are not your usual spies but private contractors. Apparently MI6 can’t handle this gig so the private sector is brought in. This means there’s the potential for competition and a funny running gag is how Nathan has a rival, Mike (Peter Ferdinando), who continuously barges in with his own team and ruins perfect planning. Aubrey Plaza, who was one of the highlights in season two of HBO’s “The White Lotus,” proves she’s a good fit for an action romp, switching from seductive to cheeky. Hugh Grant is on vacation walking around a lavish yacht, drink in hand, cackling on queue with panache.
Turn off the dialogue and “Operation Fortune” however is all texture. It’s all about the way Ritchie opens with intense editing as Nathan walks down a government hallway or Statham drives a car, silenced pistol in hand. It globe trots to stunning locales including Turkey and France. Christopher Benstead, the composer who gave “Wrath of Man” a driving force, delivers an elegant, visceral score that gives the movie more heft than it has. Just look at a scene where exquisite strings accompany the fiery destruction of multiple satellites. The scene is marvelous to look at despite the plot twist being a complete cliché. It was the same with Ritchie’s 2020 “The Gentlemen,” where the suits were pristine and the acting crackled at the service of an incomprehensible plot. We’ve seen Jason Statham take down masked thugs in one swoop many times over. There is also nothing new about the bald hero pounding down more goons inside an elevator. What matters is how Ritchie and cinematographer Alan Stewart compose the shots.
“Operation Fortune” closes as a curiosity where the cast and style work on one level while the plot flounders on another. Individual moments work with light comedy, such as Josh Hartnett playing the hunky actor who develops a genuine affection for Greg. Plaza drops flirtatious jokes all around for sport. And, there’s Statham, who centers everything on his tense silences. He’s becoming an icon of grumpy action, where the stars carry all the charisma. Everyone involved knows how to make good movies, especially the director. With this one it’s all about flexing what they can do with a scheme we don’t care much for, because it’s been played out.
“Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” releases March 3 in theaters nationwide.