Directed by Chris Weitz
Starring – Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Melanie Laurent
The Plot – Fifteen years after the end of World War II, Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad and security agency Shin Bet, led by the tireless and heroic agent Peter Malkin (Isaac); launched a daring top-secret raid to capture the notorious Eichmann (Kingsley), who had been reported dead in the chaos following Nazi Germany’s collapse but was, in fact, living and working in a suburb of Buenos Aires, Argentina under an assumed identity along with his wife and two sons. Monitoring his daily routine, Malkin and his operatives plot and execute the abduction under the cover of darkness just a few feet from Eichmann’s home. Determined to sneak him out of Argentina to stand trial in Israel, Malkin and Eichmann engage in an intense and gripping game of cat-and-mouse.
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and related violent images, and for some adult language
– Superbly acted film, highlighted by the work of the two male leads. In Isaac’s Malkin, we understand a man haunted by the memory of what he lost at the hands of the Nazi regime. In such, his biggest qualm isn’t whether or not he’s going to catch Eichmann, but rather what he will do with him once he gets him, and Isaac’s charming bravado and crippled remorse are firmly in his grasp at all times, allowing him to switch them on and off when needed. Kingsley portrays Eichmann with a surprising amount of charisma. The film kind of dares us the audience to laugh or succumb to this man’s wits on more than one occasion, proving the level of manipulation that a man so evil can lead with. Kingsley’s portrayal often felt like a Hannibal Lechter of sorts to me, for the way his persistent confidence never withers in the situation. He constantly feels like he’s one step ahead of his captors, proving how tight a grip Eichmann had in the face of his enemies.
– Long take photography that constantly held my attention. There are a few examples of Javier Aguirresaorbe’s personable stroke with the one-on-one scenes between Malkin and Eichmann that drag on longer than normally expected, allowing the long diatribes the ability to transcend exchanges beyond the film stratosphere. During these exchanges, we are treated to the camera revolving around their unshaken focus towards one another that serves as a visual metaphor to the game of mental chess at play between them.
– Despite my knowing of the history surrounding the life of Eichmann, the film still managed to surprise me while providing a strong layer or urgency in the unfolding drama. I knew everything that was coming, and yet still I fell for the bone of uncertainty that the film so carefully throws in from time-to-time, suffocating us with these moments of quick-cut tension that never relent. The mission itself happens at about the halfway point for the movie, but instead of peaking early ‘Operation Finale’ continues to raise the stakes once we learn that not all bases were covered for this group of protagonists, and that the biggest climb still lies ahead once everyone else catches on to their plan.
– In addition to the command of finely withdrawn tension in the atmosphere, current Oscar winning composer Alexandre Desplat also deserves thanks for the underlying sizzle that constantly heats the steak. Desplat has a wide range in scope for the film, serenading us in the first half with jazz piano, while rounding home later with a collision of percussion drums and violins that repeat their few notes with far greater volume each time.
– On a factual level, the film shoots about 90% from the field in the events it covers over Eichmann’s rise and fall. This gives the film a responsible take not only in Eichmann’s disappearance, but also his hand in Hitler’s deadly regime. If you know nothing about Eichmann’s chapter in World War II, ‘Operation Finale’ will provide you with enough of an outline to leave you educated, yet itching to continue reading so much more about him, and believe me when I say it’s worth it.
– Cerebral retribution. With his direction, Weitz seems to communicate to us that the desire of revenge can overtake us if we let it, transforming us into the very same men we fight so endlessly to bring to justice. Because of this, each character in this operation must tangle the voice within themselves that asks if they have a chance to disperse justice on their own watch, should they? This repeatedly provides the movie enough chances at something deeper, portraying Eichmann’s mission as the ultimate question of self-reflection within ourselves: Should justice be in our hands just because it’s convenient?
– A double narrative with each part equally important. We already know the first part of this being the team’s mission to capture Eichmann, but the second and more surprising angle to this script is the team’s leading witness to spotting Eichmann (Played by the always wonderful Haley Lu Richardson). What this does is allow Isaac and team’s investigation to never feel stalled or repetitive, giving us scenes of break in between to truly depict the ghosts of an evil regime that still go well beyond just one man. These halves of the story are inserted carefully, eventually fitting together as one cohesive progression.
– Like any heist movie, ‘Operation Finale’ informs us of the very steps taken in retrieving such a valuable target. In doing so, we see that everything from the formation of the team, to the fake passports, to the surveillance of Eichmann’s home is hit upon. This proves that this mission was anything but impromptu, giving way to the many measures that went into bringing even one man to justice, as well as the overall calculation that went into such a caper that was anything but one hundred percent legal.
– One cliche in films that I hate is when a scene will depict a moment from the memory of a character who wasn’t even there when it happened. In this regard, Isaac’s character remembers the untimely death of someone close to him through constant flashbacks, that we later learn is something that he’s going on by speculation. My problem is that the scene feels otherwise pointless and even a bit manipulative with its inclusion to where it fits in the story. If they just showed the face of this person, it would be equally effective in its value, but because Isaac is imagining something that he wasn’t there for, it disperses speculation in a film that is otherwise entirely based around fact.
– Part of the forgettable side that people will find with this film is that it never finds a voice of originality (Artistically or creatively) for its own. ‘Operation Finale’ is a solid film on its own merits, but throughout the film I couldn’t escape this feeling that it constantly set itself up to be compared to better films of the genre that had a better grip on the tonal balance that this movie falters on, through too many inserts of comedy. There’s nothing here that stands up to the artistic integrity of ‘Munich’, and the idea of escaping on a plane in a dangerous foreign country hasn’t been done in five years, when ‘Argo’ took home best picture for the same ride.