Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, The (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Jun 25, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, The (4K UHD Review)


Guy Ritchie

Release Date(s)

2024 (June 25, 2024)


Black Bear Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films/Todd Guy Films/Lionsgate Films (Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: B
  • Video Grade: A+
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: C+

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare (4K Ultra HD)




Based loosely on the real life events of Operation Postmaster in January of 1942—the files for which were only declassified by the British Government in 2016—Guy Ritchie’s The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare tells the story of one of the first special operations missions of World War II. Frustrated by German U-boat attacks on Allied shipping in the North Atlantic, Prime Minister Winston Churchill (played here by Rory Kinnear, Skyfall) decides to launch an off-the-books commando raid to destroy an Italian freighter carrying critical supplies that Hitler’s U-boats need to keep operating. The freighter, Duchessa d’Aosta, is docked in the harbor of the Spanish-controlled island of Fernando Po, off the coast of Cameroon. But as Spain is neutral in the conflict, British authorities would never support the mission. In fact, many in Churchill’s government are urging him to surrender to the Nazis instead.

Undeterred, Churchill—with the help of Major-General Gubbins (Cary Elwes, The Princess Bride) and his assistant Ian Flemming (yes, that Ian Flemming, played by Freddie Fox)—assemble a crack squad of commandos crazy enough to take on a mission that’s both suicide and technically illegal. Led by Gus March-Phillipps (Henry Cavill, Man of Steel), the squad includes Anders Lassen (Alan Ritchson, Reacher), Marjorie Stewart (Eiza González, Baby Driver), Richard Heron (Babs Olusanmokun, Star Trek: Strange New World), Freddy Alvarez (Henry Golding, Crazy Rich Asians), Geoffrey Appleyard (Alex Pettyfer, I Am Number Four), and Henry Hayes (Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince). Their task… sink the Duchessa d’Aosta. Their goal… kill as many Nazis as possible in the process.

Inspired by Damien Lewis’ 2014 book Churchill’s Secret Warriors: The Explosive True Story of the Special Forces Desperadoes of WWII, Ritchie’s film is a glossy WWII actioner, but not a gritty one in the mold of The Dirty Dozen, Force 10 from Naravone, or Where Eagles Dare. Instead, it’s as if Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds (2009) has been reimagined in the style of Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job (1969). Ministry looks great, it sounds great, the direction is deft and efficient, and the cast is excellent across the board. But while I wouldn’t exactly call this film a comedy, the quips here fly as fast and frequently as the bullets. You see, these particular commandos kill their Nazis with panache. Make no mistake, Ministry is entertaining, it actually feels grand in scope, and Christopher Benstead’s jazzy score frequently tips its hat at the work of Ennio Morricone. But the film does have a teensy problem, which is that it fails to muster much in the way of suspense. Gus and his team slice through the baddies with such ease, and in such numbers, that you never actually feel as if they’re in jeopardy at any point.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was captured digitally by cinematographer Ed Wild (The Covenant, London Has Fallen) in 16-bit X-OCN ST (at 8K resolution) using Sony CineAlta Venice 2 cameras with Tokina Vista Prime and Angenieux EZ Lenses, and it was finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 scope aspect ratio. Lionsgate’s Ultra HD presents the film graded for high dynamic range (only HDR10 is included). But it’s been encoded on a 100 GB disc, so the image has plenty of room to breathe. Video data rates are frequently in the 70 to 80 Mbps range, which lends the film exceptional dimensionality. Detail is beautifully refined at all times, enhanced by a light wash of organic-looking but obviously digital cinema grain. Shadows are deep and detailed, highlights are naturally bold. The film’s palette isn’t quite vibrant, but it’s richly nuanced and exhibits a kind of Technicolor sheen that’s pleasing to look at and feels appropriate to the proceedings. The cinematography itself is a little lacking in style, but it’s plenty competent. More to the point, this 4K image is truly gorgeous.

The film sounds great too, with a muscular and occasionally bombastic surround mix available in lossless English Dolby Atmos. The soundstage feels enormous—big, wide, and enveloping, with lovely immersion, smooth panning, and incredibly active directional play. Atmospheric effects abound, and when the action gets hot and heavy you’re awash in sound effects and music from seemingly every direction, including the overhead channels. Gunshots seem to linger in the air, explosions have genuine heft. The dialogue is clear and clean at all times, and the mix is built upon a solid foundation of robust bass. English Descriptive Audio is also available along with Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are included in English SDH and Spanish.

Lionsgate’s Ultra HD release is a 2-disc set that includes the film in 4K on UHD and 1080p HD on Blu-ray. You can buy it in regular Amaray packaging and also an Amazon-exclusive Steelbook. Each disc includes the following special features:

  • The Ministry of Filmmaking (HD – 24:11)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:08)

The Ministry of Filmmaking is a half-serious look behind-the-scenes at the production, that includes on-set footage and brief interview comments with the director, along with Cavill, González, Ritchie, Ritchson, Babs Olusanmokun, Cary Elwes, co-stars Rory Kinnear, Til Schweiger, Alex Pettyfer, Danny Sapani, Henry Golding, Hero Finnes Tiffin, and Freddie Fox, 1st AD Max Keene, production designer Martyn John, costume designer Loulou Bontemps, hair and make up designer Jules Chapman, and producers Jerry Bruckheimer, Ivan Atkinson, John Friedberg, and Chad Oman. The tone is lighthearted from start to finish. You see some location work both in Turkey and at sea on the various boats used by the production, and there’s bloopers, laughter, and clowning around aplenty. You also get the film’s trailer on disc, and there’s a Digital Copy code on a paper insert in the packaging.

At one point in the featurette on this disc, Cavill says of Ministry: “People can expect to see unusual characters doing bombastic things.” And that’s pretty much the best description of The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare I can think of. Nearly every aspect of this film is competent and polished. But it’s so polished that it eventually starts to feel a tad shallow. To put it another way, you’re likely to really enjoy this film… right up to the point where you start looking at your watch and checking your phone. If you want a see a darky funny, more grindhouse, and original Nazi-murder-mayhem actioner, I recommend giving Jalmari Helander’s fantastic Sisu (2022) a look (it’s also available in 4K Ultra HD from Lionsgate). In the meantime, Ministry is arguably Guy Ritchie’s best film since The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015), so that’s something. Pick ‘em both up and you’ve got the makings of a solid WWII double feature.

- Bill Hunt

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