Movie Review: ‘Operation Finale’
Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley star in “Operation Finale,” based on a true story.
“Operation Finale” is an important film that should be seen as much for its history-based story as for its presentation of that story.
The title refers to the “capture and extraction” of Adolf Eichmann, said to be “the architect” of “The Final Solution,” in which 10 million, including 6 million Jews, were killed in the Holocaust, promulgated by the Nazi regime in Germany.
Oscar Isaac stars (he also is a producer of the film) as Peter Malkin, a real-life Israeli Mossad intelligence officer tasked with tracking down SS officer Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) in Argentina and bringing him to Israel to be tried as a war criminal.
Director Chris Weitz (Oscar nominee, screenplay, “About a Boy,” 2002; director, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” 2009; “The Golden Compass,” 2007) works from a screenplay by Matthew Orton (theatrical movie screenplay debut) in the matter-of-fact film, which creates a back story of alleged bickering and trepidation among the Israel secret service agents, a love story between Malkin and Hanna Elan (Mélanie Laurent), and a tension-filled finish that recalls the classic World War II espionage movies, “To Have and Have Not” (1944) and “Casablanca” (1942).
After World War II, many Nazis were captured and tried at Nuremberg. The complicity of Argentine authorities, notably the Peron regime, in harboring Nazis who fled Germany, is mentioned in a cursory manner. The film would have benefited from exploring this aspect of the story rather than dwelling on disagreements among the Israeli intelligent agents.
Eichmann escaped to Argentina in 1950. His wife and children arrived two years later. Eichmann, under the name Ricardo Klement, lived undetected for nearly a decade, working at a Mercedes-Benz plant. Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion approved of the Mossad mission.
As with many movies based on true stories, fictionalized scenes in “Operation Finale” are eclipsed by the power of the end-credits clips of newsreel footage from Eichmann’s 1962 trial, photographs of the actual subjects of the biography, and information-filled titles.
The film tells the background stories of its protagonists, Malkin and Eichmann, through judicious use of flashbacks.
At the center of “Operation Finale” is a fine performance by Oscar Issac (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” 2017; “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” 2015; “Ex Machina,” 2014), who is maturing into George Clooney-like cinematic handsomeness and presence.
Issac’s scenes with Kingsley are the linchpins of the drama.
Kingsley (Oscar, actor, “Gandhi,” 1982) is particularly believable as Eichmann, even to making a morally reprehensible character somewhat intriguing just as would be a rattlesnake before its fatal bite.
Notable in supporting roles are Haley Lu Richardson (Sylvia Hermann), Joe Alwyn (Klaus Eichmann), Greta Scacchi (Vera Eichmann), Peter Strauss (Lothar Hermann), Lior Raz (Isser Harel), Nick Kroll (Rafi Eitan) and Michael Aronov (Zvi Aharoni).
The jagged-edge score by Alexandre Desplat (Oscar, “The Shape of Water,” 2017; “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” 2014) is particularly effective.
“Operation Finale” was Israel’s answer to Nazi Germany’s “the Final Solution.” Israel had the final word.
“Operation Finale,” MPAA rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are urged to be cautious. Some material may be inappropriate for pre-teenagers.) for disturbing thematic content and related violent images, and for some language; Genre: Biography, Drama, History; Run Time: 2 hrs., 2 mins.; Distributed by MGM.
Credit Readers Anonymous: Scenes for “Operation Finale” were filmed in Argentina. The Adolf Eichmann trial was televised worldwide. The film includes a scene from “Imitation of Life” (1959), that includes director Chris Weitz’s mother, Susan Kohner).
Box Office, Aug. 31: “Crazy Rich Asians” continued its crazy rich ways at the box office during the Labor Day weekend, making it a three-peat at No. 1 with another consistent $22.1 million, $110.8 million, three weeks, with “The Meg” again at No. 2 with $10.5 million, $120.5 million, four weeks; “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” moving up one place to No. 3 with $7 million, $204.8 million, six weeks, as “Searching” moved up 18 slots to No. 4, with $6 million, $6.5 million, two weeks, and “Operation Finale” opened at No. 5, with $6 million, weekend, $7.7 million, since Aug. 29.
6. “Disney’s Christopher Robin” dropped one slot, $5.1 million, $85.5 million, five weeks. 7. ”Alpha” stayed put, $4.5 million, $27.4 million, three weeks. 8. “The Happytime Murders” swore down five slots, $4.4 million, $17 million, two weeks. 9. “BlacKkKlansman” dropped one slot, $4.1 million, $38.3 million, four weeks. 10. “Mile 22” drove down four slots, $3.5 million, $31.7 million, three weeks.
Unreel, Sept. 7: “Peppermint,” R: Pierre Morel directs Jennifer Garner, Tyson Ritter, Annie Ilonzeh and Richard Cabral in the action thriller. A young mother seeks revenge.
“God Bless the Broken Road,” PG: Harold Cronk directs Lindsay Pulsipher, Jordin Sparks, LaDainian Tomlinson and Andrew W. Walker in the drama. A young mother loses her husband, killed in the Afghanistan War, and raises their daughters.
Two popcorn boxes out of five popcorn boxes.