A group of privately-contracted special agents is hired by the British government to track down a mystery MacGuffin in Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre, an expertly-crafted, slam-bang Guy Ritchie action movie opening in Prague cinemas this weekend.
Debuting in foreign markets without a stateside release date following the demise of distributor STX Entertainment, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre continues a career resurgence for director Ritchie following the distinguished The Gentlemen and the smoldering Wrath of Man. This one may not make a whole lot of sense, but the filmmaking is so taut we’re never given enough time to poke holes in the story.
It’s the classic Mission: Impossible setup: Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre stars Jason Statham as the titular Orson Fortune, a free-agent super spy contracted by Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to pull off an dangerous globetrotting mission alongside a small team of expert black operatives.
Exactly what that mission is, no one seems to know. British intelligence has only learned that something of high value has been stolen by some Ukrainian baddies and put up for sale on the black market, and government official Knighton (Eddie Marsan) contracts Elwes’ dapper fixer to figure out just what’s being sold, and who’s buying it.
Their investigation leads them to merchant-of-death arms dealer Greg Simmonds (a scenery-chewing Hugh Grant, one-upping his turn in The Gentlemen) and Hollywood superstar Danny Fitzgerald (Josh Harnett, amusingly aping Brad Pitt), who unwittingly becomes the titular ‘ruse of war’. All the while, a competing team of mercenaries led by Mike (Peter Ferdinando) attempts to one-up them in their efforts.
Throughout the rat-a-tat story, written by the director along with frequent collaborators Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies, Operation Fortune glides across three continents while always staying two steps ahead of the audience. But this isn’t the go-for-broke Ritchie of Snatch or Revolver: Ruse de Guerre is a polished, even elegant affair that invites comparison to the more recent Mission: Impossible movies, and delivers the goods.
Statham excels as this film’s version Ethan Hunt, and highlights the big action set pieces including a exhausting chase through the streets of Antalya that ends with a laugh-out-loud comedic punchline. But Operation Fortune is a team affair, and Elwes, Plaza, Malone, Grant and Hartnett all get a chance to shine.
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre was originally slated to release in January of last year, then pushed to spring due to pandemic concerns. It was pushed again following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, reportedly due to its depiction of Ukrainian gangsters (ultimately a minor plot element). Restructuring at STX Entertainment has put its US release in further jeopardy as it debuts in foreign markets to kick off the year.
The post-production delays, January debut, and foreign-exclusive release all suggest major issues here, but that simply isn’t the case. Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre is a real blast, and the first great action movie of 2023.