December 14, 2018
Munich meets Argo in this low-key depiction of Israel’s secret mission in the years after World War II to capture Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Argentina and bring him to trial for his role in the Holocaust.
Box Office $17.61 million;
$29.99 DVD, $34.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for disturbing thematic content and related violent images, and for some language.
Stars Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Mélanie Laurent, Lior Raz, Nick Kroll, Haley Lu Richardson, Peter Strauss.
At the end of World War II, as so many Nazi leaders were being captured, or committing suicide to avoid facing justice for war crimes, SS officer Adolf Eichmann managed to flee from Europe.
Widely considered to be one of the major architects of the Nazi Holocaust that resulted in the death of 6 million European Jews, Eichmann was considered a prime target for the Nazi hunters who popped up after the war, though his whereabouts remained a mystery for more than a decade. He was eventually spotted in Argentina, where many former Nazis fled because their ideology meshed well with local political movements at the time.
In 1960, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, organized a secret mission to capture Eichmann and bring him to Israel to stand trial for war crimes.
Operation Finale dramatizes the key events of the mission, though not as intensely as other depictions of Mossad operations on the big screen, such as Steven Spielberg’s Munich.
So much of the story involves characters waiting around and getting the proper paperwork in order — not exactly riveting viewing. As a result, director Chris Weitz puts less emphasis on the process of finding Eichmann and the decision to capture him, and focuses more on the characters involved in the operation, particularly the growing rapport between agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and Eichmann (Ben Kingsley). Fortunately, the performances are strong enough all around to hold audience interest.
One interesting affectation Weitz brought to his handling of the performances was an edict against artificial accents, so the actors use their normal speaking voice regardless of what nationality they are meant to be. It’s a noticeable choice but certainly not as distracting as an actor stumbling through an accent they have no mastery of.
Weitz also rearranges the chronology of events to ramp up the tension a bit, aided by a pulsating musical score by Alexandre Desplat.
In a solo commentary, Weitz says he thought of Operation Finale as a spiritual companion to another Spielberg film, Bridge of Spies, which takes place at the same time. As such, he included a brief scene of the Mossad agents hearing a news report over the radio of American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers being captured by the Soviet Union.
Weitz also mentions how the story parallels that of Argo in that it too climaxes with an escape via plane before local enemies can figure out what is going on (in this case, Eichmann’s family and supporters conducting a manhunt to find him after he disappears), and how he went about structuring the sequence so as to avoid comparisons.
The Blu-ray also includes a six-and-a-half-minute “Inside the Operation” featurette about the making of the film with interviews from the cast and filmmakers.
A featurette about the actual events would have been an appropriate inclusion as well, but as long as the film encourages people to look into the real story more, it’s definitely a win for the study of history.