Operation Finale Review: Nazi Hunters Provide Late Summer Heroics
Operation Finale recounts the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann by Israeli intelligence agents. The film is solid on several fronts, particularly the performances of the main actors Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley. The problem is that Operation Finale never achieves the seriousness of its subject. The magnitude of the Holocaust is replaced by spycraft mechanics. More emphasis was needed on the enormity of this atrocious crime. The participation of Eichmann is represented very closely. Operation Finale should have pulled the curtains further back on Eichmann’s murderous activities.
Operation Finale opens in 1954 with Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, in search of Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) in Europe. Directed by Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), his efforts do not bear fruit. Eichmann has disappeared. Six years later, in Argentina, a fleeting romance between two teenagers (Haley Lu Richardson, Joe Alwyn) leads to a surprising revelation. Eichmann and his family hide in the country under false pretenses.
The Israeli government needs Eichmann alive. They want to put Eichmann to the test. Make him responsible for his crimes and show the world that Jews demand justice. Malkin, persecuted by the brutal murder of his beloved sister, must bottle up his hatred for the greater cause. He gathers a team of operatives to kidnap Eichmann. The mission is fraught with danger. Argentina is a cave of sympathizers and Nazi anti-Semitism. Catching Eichmann is just the beginning. Returning it to Israel undetected is the real challenge.
The cast of support is distinctive in their reactions to the mission. Some (Nick Kroll, Melanie Laurent) understand the importance of bringing Eichmann back to trial; others (Greg Hill) are thirsty for revenge. Everyone shares the common bond of horrible loss. These relationships lead to an unexpected and recreational mood. I laughed out loud several times when the team came to an agreement between them and their solemn duty.
The interaction between Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley is the strongest aspect of Operation Finale. A Jew comes face to face with a chief architect of the genocide of his people. Eichmann, the vile orchestrator of mass murder, is surprisingly indifferent in his behavior. Ben Kingsley is masterly as usual. Eichmann was just following orders. He had nothing to do with barbarous acts. Love for the country was his only motivation, not a general dogma of racial superiority. Malkin must face Eichmann’s feints without being manipulated.
The Final Operation calms down at several points. Matthew Orton’s script gets bogged down by the details of the procedure. The nuts and bolts of the Eichmann version squeaked the narrative to a standstill. The director Chris Weitz (About a child, The Golden Compass) needed to accelerate these scenes or intersperse them with more dynamic material. It does a little, when Eichmann returns to a massacre. It just is not enough to keep up the energetic pace. Operation Finale would have benefited greatly by taking a look at Eichmann’s past.
Operation Finale tells another important story beyond the capture and eventual execution of Eichmann. The complicity of Argentina to protect the Nazis is terribly frightening. The pro-German regime of the country gave shelter to some of the most prolific murderers in history. Operation Finale does not hide anything in its interpretation of the Nazi resurgence in Argentina after the Second World War.
From MGM Pictures, Operation Finale is a better than average foray into the Holocaust drama. The talented cast works well, even when the script becomes mundane. Adolf Eichmann escaped justice for a long time. It makes me wonder how many pockets of Nazi sympathizers still exist in Argentina.