Operation Finale (2018)
Operation Finale (2018)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 2 hrs. 3 min.

Release Date: August 29th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Chris Weitz Actors: Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Melanie Laurent, Nick Kroll, Lior Raz, Ohad Knoller, Greg Hill, Torben Liebrecht, Michael Benjamin Hernandez, Joe Alwyn, Haley Lu Richardson, Greta Scacchi

 


 

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hen his daughter, Sylvia (Haley Lu Richardson), begins dating Klaus Eichmann (Joe Alwyn) in Argentina, Lothar Hermann (Peter Strauss) learns of the young man’s father, who might be a high-ranking former Nazi lieutenant. Upon receiving Hermann’s information, Mossad director Isser Harel (Lior Raz) orchestrates an intricate assignment to confirm the identity of Adolf Eichmann, the long-missing “Architect of the Final Solution.” A covert team led by Mossad operative Rafi Eitan (Nick Kroll), and including Shin Bet chief interrogator Zvi Aharoni (Michael Aronov), agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), and Dr. Hanna Elian (Melanie Laurent), arrives in Buenos Aires to begin surveillance of Eichmann’s residence.

When their suspicions are confirmed, the unit apprehends Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), intending to extract him by air, additionally contending with the crime of violating Argentine sovereignty. But when the plane is delayed by ten days, the group must hole up in a safehouse to avoid detection by SS Officer Carlos Fuldner (Pepe Rapazote) and the police who are searching for them. And the Mossad team’s plans become further complicated when the Israeli airline refuses to send a plane at all without written consent from Eichmann himself, confirming that he wishes to be transported out of the country.

The opening sequence, which chronicles some of the tragic – though no less understandable – mistakes that were made in the hunt for a vanished war criminal, is something of a brave note, considering that it highlights the fallibility of human judgers, even when they’re on the defensible side of history. The conclusion of the film, however, isn’t quite as daring. Rather than continuing with a series of elaborate efforts to humanize Eichmann, “Operation Finale” takes the easy way out by reinforcing his monstrousness – a concept that, in the context of the fictionalized recreations of biographical material, isn’t as thought-provoking as giving the antagonist a glimmer of benignity.

From the start, the music (which reminds of the eerie yet playful tunes of Bernard Herrmann’s collaborations with Hitchcock) sounds more in line with a comic heist movie, while the editing feels at home with television productions, betraying the theatrical ambitions of this historical account. But the players involved inject essential gravitas into the project to shape it into a far more engrossing endeavor than the “Mission: Impossible” or “Argo” design seen in the generic assembling of a team (Hanna is supposed to be the toughest member to convince, though she joins inexplicably in the transition between scenes), for a suspenseful snatch-and-grab undertaking. Dangerous people are involved, yet Isaac and Kingsley are given numerous moments to detail their varied roles, particularly through the bonding of a clement captor and a calm prisoner. Kingsley is quietly terrifying, once again showing his skills in front of the camera. Many of the other supporting characters only demonstrate flaring tempers, which detract from the consequence of the ordeal.

Careful reconnaissance, false alarms, altered routines, surprise checkpoints, untrustworthy locals, unexpected delays, and last-minute escapes become the norm for manufacturing tension, often broken up by a few seconds of levity. So many things can go wrong, allowing for liberties to be taken when visualizing the clandestine mission. Haunting flashback imagery works better for original bits of artistry, even when it feels restricted by the PG-13 rating. It’s all impressively cinematic nonetheless, despite the underlying certainty that not everything here is completely accurate. “What is truth? Whose truth?” demands Eichmann, briefly reinforcing the idea that villains never see themselves as such, while also echoing the reality that history tends to repeat itself – and that dark themes of intolerance and violence are just as relevant today as they were during 1960 when the events took place. “Operation Finale” may be slow in spots and unsure of when to cut to black (opting to unveil further footage beyond the point at which the picture should have ended on a highly satisfactory and poignant juxtaposition), but its educational and entertainment values are magnificent – and far superior to another recent historical adaptation, “7 Days in Entebbe.” “I think you fear the future will look like the past.”

– The Massie Twins

  • 7/10