Jason Statham & Director Guy Ritchie Team up to Make a Modern Day Spy Adventure
An unknown new technology worth billions of dollars has been stolen from a laboratory in Johannesburg, South Africa. Super-spy Orson Fortune and his crew of professional operatives discover the seller is international broker Greg Simmonds. They decide to recruit movie star Danny Francesco to assist them in compromising Simmonds. Francesco has no choice but to agree to their plan of ruse de guerre to stop the sale and retrieve the technology.
Commits Ruse de Guerre on the Audience
The story begins with a diplomat-looking fellow, Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes), walking down a long, empty government hallway in London headed for an important meeting with a British official named Knighton (Eddie Marsan). Interspersed with his hallway walk are scenes of a paramilitary group attacking a government installation and at first, it is hard to determine if the building attacked is the same building. They are not and the timeline is different as well. This is a ruse played on the audience. Director Guy Ritchie has begun his subtle game of deception by misdirection. It is an excellent beginning to the movie.
Operation Fortune is a story that employs the use of ruse de guerre, a French term meaning “ruse of war”, where the military will use deception as a strategy to gain an advantage over their enemy. Think Trojan horse. The first use of ruse de guerre within the story begins with Knighton contracting with a small group of operatives led by Nathan Jasmine, who employs Orson Fortune (Jason Statham). Fortune is assisted by a small team of successful operatives, led by Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone). Knighton’s strategy is when time is of the essence, a small group of spies will achieve faster success than a larger, bureaucratic government force.
More ruses follow and are worth counting as the movie begins to lose its pace, putters along with one-dimensional characters in glamorous settings as they travel around the world chasing after an unknown, dangerous technology and the antagonists involved in its theft.
The movie is lighthearted in spirit with a few chuckles. Audiences have been here before with Jason Statham. Fans of Statham will undoubtedly love this film. His humor is subtle, yet he is simply too cool to be truly funny without a foil. In the 2015 film Spy Jason Statham played an elite spy named Rick Ford who believed he was perfect when he was not, and his sidekick Melissa McCarthy made certain he knew it. Orson Fortune is nearly perfect and the one time he is reminded he made a mistake by Sarah Fidel, he shrugs it off because he perfectly handled the situation anyway.
This may be a fun, Saturday matinee adventure movie, but was rolled into view as a comedy. When the funniest line is in the trailer, the film generally does not succeed as a comedy. Audiences expecting another funny Spy movie will be disappointed. Operation Fortune opened in theaters on March 3rd, 2023. Overall, it is light entertainment that asks the viewer to ignore the plot holes and loose ends and simply enjoy the ride.
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Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre Characters
Jason Statham as Orson Fortune acts like Jason Statham, if there is a subtle difference in his character, it isn’t evident. His character kills everyone he aims at and doesn’t even get scratched in hand-to-hand combat. That may have been by design to get laughs but no one is perfect and his perfect character becomes grating as the story develops. There is very little chemistry between Statham and Plaza that could elevate their acting, no passionate side story was written for them to explore. Jason Statham can handle a more complex role than the one-dimensional character that he was given by writers Guy Ritchie, Ivan Atkinson, and Marn Davies.
Aubrey Plaza as Sarah Fidel had some funny lines but often she came across too smug, snarky, and conceited, possibly to prove to Fortune that as the new recruit, she was fully capable at her job, or because that’s who she is – no vulnerabilities, and hardly endearing to the audience. She dresses up well and acts as well as possible within the limitations of her character.
Bugzy Malone as J.J Davis doesn’t have enough lines or enough time on screen. When he is on screen Fortune basically orders him around, and tells him to shoot straight, or to be in position when needed. His character is so superficial they could have dropped him altogether from the story, especially since Fortune can do everything better himself.
Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride) as Nathan Jasmine was the glue that held the team together and his petty complaints to Fortune about project costs, wine, and other excesses that he shared with Fortune was one of the bright spots of the entire movie.
Josh Hartnett as Danny Francesco is the biggest star in Hollywood and he fully embraces the character as Danny is grudgingly (at first) led into the ruse de guerre by Fortune and his gang of spies. Hartnett’s performance is excellent, reminiscent of Burt Reynolds in his prime, with enough vulnerability, pride, conceit, and spark to steal nearly every scene he was in. Danny’s interactions with Greg Simmonds were entertaining to watch as both men developed a mutual admiration for each other’s talents.
Hugh Grant as Greg Simmonds, international arms dealer, was believable and he acted well with only one glaring irritation – his accent. This is the second British actor in the past year that has created an accent that simply defies definition and contrasts with the character’s back-story. Was he channeling a British Hollywood producer? Perhaps he envisioned his character spending summers in the Hamptons? It seemed as if Hugh Grant was channeling Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island and that was more than a tad unsettling. Yet he floats through every scene like he owns the whole production. His acting elevates a movie that was in desperate need of improvement.
Guy Ritchie Knows How to Shoot a Movie
For a movie that rarely aspires to rise above average, there is great pleasure to be made in watching the camera movements and angles, the fades, the pans, crossovers, the lighting, and the stunning vistas. There were a few editing issues. There is a scene where Sarah Fidel is speaking and then the scene cuts abruptly away. That should have been cleaned up. Guy Ritchie is an excellent director. Operation Fortune is not his best work but even his average work is better than most others. This story needed to respect the character development more than it did. It’s hard to root for a hero you don’t care about.
Final Thoughts & Viewing Information
For a non-Jason Statham lover, this is the type of movie that may not please a paying theater customer. A person who rents this movie on Prime or buys the movie may be disappointed that this movie isn’t worth the price of admission. But four years from now it could be trending on Netflix’s top ten and be thoroughly enjoyed as a fun, and forgettable spy movie. If Brad Pitt’s World War Z can do it, why not Jason Statham’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre?
Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre opened in Theaters on March 3rd, 2023 and is currently available as an early-access movie rental on Amazon Prime.
Operation Fortune (2023) Official Lionsgate Trailer