Simple Review- “Nazis. I hate these guys.”
“Operation Finale,” tells the true life story of the capture of Adolf Eichmann, an SS officer that was behind ” the final solution”, the Nazi plan to exterminate Jews during WWII. Eichmann escaped Europe at the end of the war and went into hiding in Buenos Aires, avoiding capture and starting a new life. Agents from Israel’s national intelligence agency, the Mossad, make a daring move to bring this notorious war criminal to justice by taking him back to Isreal and stand trial for his hand in these atrocities. This is an amazing piece of history that the film gives us a mixed bag version of.
I have to admit, I was looking forward to ” Operation Finale.” World War II was an amazing time when the world came together to fight true evil, and the real-life stories that emerged from this time period are more incredible than anything anyone can make up. I am a sucker for these types of secret mission movies, and the cast gave me hope for an edge of the seat thriller. Director Chris Weitz and writer Mathew Orton deliver moments that do thrill, but ultimately this all feels like familiar territory that hits the right beats at the proper moments.
As I like to do, let’s start with the positives. Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley deliver in their performances. When either is on the screen and especially when they are in scenes together, the film hits its stride. Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin, the leader of the Mossad mission to capture Eichmann. I am a fan of Isacc, I think he is a talented actor that more people should know. If you only know him from the new Star Wars movies, definitely check him out in “Ex Machina” and ” The Promise” he does great work in those films. He gives Peter a charisma that you’d expect from a ” spy” but he does add vulnerability to the character that lets us inside his conflict with dealing with the man that lead to his sister’s death. It’s that conflict that keeps Peter from being a one-dimensional character out for revenge.
As good as Oscar Isaac is, Ben Kingsley gives the films most memorable moments as Eichmann. Kingsley is one of those sneaky great actors that reminds you time and again what excellent acting is. The best parts of the movie involve the interrogation scenes of Eichmann. When Isaac and Kingsley are alone in the room, it is a clinic on great acting. These scenes are not over the top yelling and slamming things in the room to get what they can out of Eichmann, no these are two men using their wits and all their life’s experiences to get the other man to yield to their requests. For me, these were the thrilling parts of this film. When these two were not on screen together, all I wanted was for them to get back on screen together. I could have done with some of the other by the numbers scenes, just to watch these two actors working so beautifully off of each other.
The rest of the cast is serviceable. No one really stood out to me except for Nick Kroll working outside of his normal comedic roles. The direction was pretty standard as well. Not sure if that is a criticism or not, as the film does what you would expect it to do with this story. There are the moments of “will they or won’t they get caught”, and the inevitable scene at the airport as they try to escape before the bad guys stop the plane from taking off. There is some nice use of flashback scenes to show both the horror of Eichmann’s actions and the sadness of Malkin’s sister’s fate. I especially liked a scene at the end where Malkin’s sister seems to thank him for what he did in bringing Eichmann to justice. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between.
Ultimately, that is my biggest criticism of this film, it doesn’t move this type of story in any new direction. You’ve seen most of the same scenes in other movies of this ilk, which takes away any true suspense. It is like the director and writer said ” it’s time for a scene where they almost get caught” and ” it’s time for the bad guys interrogate someone to find the good guys scene.” These scenes are shot and acted fine, just didn’t bring anything new. I wish the filmmakers would have spent most of the movie in the house with the interrogation of Eichmann, and something that wasn’t given enough attention, the conflict among the Mossad team. There are members of the team that want to bring Eichmann back to Isreal so the world can see the travesties of the Nazi regime, and other members that want to kill him because they lost family during the Holocaust. There was a real opportunity for tension in the film as we would wonder if Eichmann would survive to reach trial in Isreal.
To wrap up these ramblings, “Operation Final” is a good film with moments of greatness, that could have been great from start to finish. This is an exciting and important true life story that could have been so much more. As it is, I would definitely recommend watching it when it gets to DVD, or streaming, ( or whatever you kids do nowadays) just to enjoy Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley’s performances and to see an important part of WWII history.
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho