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MOVIE REVIEW

Operation Finale also known as “Operação Final,” “Operation Eichmann - Jakten på rettferdighet,” “A végső hadművelet”

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for disturbing thematic content and related violent images, and for some language.

Reviewed by: Keith Rowe
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults • Young Adults
Genre:
Biography History Suspense Thriller
Length:
2 hr. 3 min.
Year of Release:
2018
USA Release:
August 29, 2018 (wide release)
DVD: December 4, 2018
Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Relevant Issues
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Murder

Jewish Holocaust in Europe

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Persecution of Jewish people

Mass deportation of Jews to ghettos

Nazi mass extermination camps / death camps / Holocaust / crimes against the Jewish people / crimes against humanity

Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency (Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations)

History of the Nazis in Germany and Argentina

Catching and taking to trial fugitive war criminals

Copyright, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Featuring: Oscar IsaacPeter Malkin
Ben KingsleyAdolph Eichmann
Mélanie LaurentHanna Elian
Haley Lu RichardsonSylvia Hermann
Lior Raz … Isser Harel
Nick KrollRafi Eitan
Michael Aronov … Zvi Aharoni
Ohad Knoller … Ephraim Ilian
Greg Hill … Moshe Tabor
Torben Liebrecht … Yaakov Gat
Michael Benjamin Hernandez … Dani Shalom
Joe Alwyn … Klaus Eichmann
Greta Scacchi … Vera Eichmann
Peter StraussLothar Hermann
Pêpê Rapazote … Carlos Fuldner
See all »
Director: Chris Weitz—“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (2009), “The Golden Compass” (2007), “About a Boy” (2002)
Producer: Automatik
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). Trademark logo.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

“After World War II, Hitler’s deadliest lieutenant escaped.”

Throughout film history, there have been several WW2 dramas with “Operation” in their title, including: “Operation Crossbow” (1965), “Operation Daybreak” (1975) and “Operation Pacific” (1951). Now there’s “Operation Finale,” a historical thriller from director Chris Weitz and actors Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac. The movie has an intriguing premise…

Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), one of the chief architects of Hitler’s “Final Solution,” disappeared after the war. Since Eichmann evaded capture, he was never brought to justice during the Nuremberg trials.

Fast-forward to 1960. Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and his team of secret agents track down Eichmann, who’s been living under an alias in Buenos Aires. After a series of narrow escapes, Eichmann is delivered to Israel, where he finally stands trial for his crimes against humanity.

If that synopsis makes the movie seem straightforward, predictable and inevitable, it is. Here’s a movie that could’ve been a first-rate thriller with a poignant message, but instead squandered its potential on a ponderous plot.

Surprisingly, Weitz is responsible for much of the movie’s underachievement. I say “surprisingly” because Weitz has had a good deal of success contributing (as director, writer or both) to adventure driven fantasy/sci-fi movies in the past, like: “The Golden Compass” (2007), “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (2009) and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016).

Here, Chris Weitz’ direction is consistently arthritic, and his stiffness of form isn’t aided by rookie scribe Matthew Orton’s sluggish script. Orton’s story is adversely uneven: the first half is terminally slow, while the second half is a taut thriller with a satisfying, if haunting, resolution. The movie is just over two hours in length and a good 15 to 20 minutes could’ve been excised with negligible impact to the story.

If the movie has a saving grace, it’s the superb performances of the two lead actors. The scenes with just Isaac and Kingsley are the meat of the movie. The screen chemistry between the two actors is palpable and undeniable. The mental chess match that ensues between their characters is utterly enthralling, and it’s to Isaac’s credit that he’s able to hold his own against grand master Kingsley.

Isaac does a fine job of keeping his character’s emotions in check; he delivers a beautifully underplayed performance and is believable throughout. Kingsley, as would be expected, is the movie. His portrayal of the nefarious mastermind of the Holocaust is effectively restrained and finely measured—our utter loathing of the character gradually turns to sympathy when we learn more about the man from his back stories. It’s plain to see that Kingsley elevated the production with his very presence. Without him, the movie would’ve been a glorified indie film with a gravitas vacuum.

Kingsley, no stranger to WW2 films, acted in “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Walking with the Enemy” (2013). There’s an appreciable disparity in ages between character and actor: at the time of his capture, Eichmann was 54; at the time of filming, Kingsley was 74.

Positive Aspects

At the heart of the film is the theme of loss. On an individual level, Malkin and Eichmann have each lost something—the former, his sister; the latter, his humanity. Widening the lens, the film’s mass scale loss is the deaths of 6 million European Jews during the Holocaust.

One of the compelling aspects the film foregrounds is the fine line between justice and revenge. Rather than torture Eichmann to obtain his signature, as his fellow agents want to do, Malkin opts for a more humane approach. Malkin spoon-feeds Eichmann a bowl of soup and shows his captive mercy and dignity, compassionate acts that are in line with Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 5:44).

Malkin’s “good cop” strategy proves successful both in securing the signature and in creating a bond between himself and Eichmann. Even though Eichmann claims that all humans are animals, he reveals that he tried to facilitate the escape of some of the imprisoned Jews and shows remorse over his past actions, which serves to redeem his character… at least a little.

Negative Aspects

The early stages of the film are inundated with a number of distasteful racist comments. One anti-Semite makes the reprehensible remark that Jews seem to “pop up everywhere, like mushrooms after the rain.” Another rabble-rouser refers to Jews as the “rot in society.”

Other derogatory statements are aimed at Russians; the epithet “commie” is employed on a few occasions. One of the most shocking moments is when a group of young people go to the movies and an on-screen character says the “N” word.

Alcohol is present in a couple scenes. We see bottles or glasses of beer when the team celebrates in a restaurant and also when Malkin is in a café for a meeting. Red wine is mentioned in one scene.

Murder or the intent to kill can be found in several scenes. Jokingly, Malkin asks who his mother killed to get her new refrigerator. In a couple scenes, Malkin admits that putting a bullet in Eichmann’s head would be far easier than smuggling him out of Argentina. Though it might be tempting to exact revenge (Romans 12:19) for what Eichmann did to his people, Malkin is determined to capture the Nazi so that justice can be served. During an emotionally charged scene, Malkin, baited by Eichmann, nearly gives into a homicidal rage, but holds himself back from killing the former Nazi.

The level of violence is mild for most of the movie, but a handful of scenes depict moderate brutality, as during Eichmann’s abduction. Even though several people are shot off-camera, the impression of homicide still remains. In an early scene, a member of Malkin’s team shoots the wrong man by accident and has no compunctions about doing so because he’s a Nazi (making him no better than the German henchman they’re pursuing).

A gun is held up to the back of a woman’s head, and we hear the report of the gun off-screen. We also see a couple glimpses of a woman hanging from a tree. The most graphic scene involves hundreds of Jews being gunned down in a trench. Again, we don’t see the victims being shot, but we witness blood spattering all over Eichmann’s uniform. Eichmann’s recitation of the horrific event is far more grisly than what’s shown—he describes how a bullet went through a young girl’s head before striking her mother. Eichmann claims that he had bits of brain on his uniform, which is absolutely stomach-turning.

It’s shameful that the movie tolerates so many profanities, since they’re completely uncalled for in this type of film. Aside from one F-word, the movie contains a couple instances each of “d**n,” “h*ll,” “a**hole,” “a**,” “b**ch,” and “Is your mother a n*gger?”. The movie’s expletive of choice is “s**t,” which is uttered a dozen times.

Early in the movie, one male character tells another that he was waving at his crotch in a weird way, which, even within the context of wrestling, is inappropriate.

Final Thoughts

“Operation Finale” is a mild disappointment because it’s slow-moving and overlong. Still, it showcases the talents of two superb performers; one is an Oscar® winner at the top of his game, the other is named Oscar and is an emerging star.

“Operation Finale” touches on many universal themes, including the deceptive nature of evil and our intrinsic need for justice. It’s a worthwhile film because it memorializes the Holocaust without glorifying it. “Operation Finale” reminds us of the heinous acts that were committed during one of the darkest chapters in human history… lest we forget.

  • Violence: Heavy
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Moderately Heavy
  • Profane language: Moderate
  • Nudity: Minor
  • Sex: None
  • Occult: None

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Positive
Positive—“Operation Finale” is an intriguing movie that addresses subjects such as war crimes, vengeance, justice, persecution and morality. Going into this movie, I expected a fair amount of violence showing the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Given the subject matter, these types of scenes were minimal. The violence towards the Jews was shown in brief flashbacks interspersed throughout the film to emphasize the story line. There were a few scenes of brutality within the modern day story, but the majority of the film is the Israeli spy team searching for Eichmann, finding him and then holding him prisoner.

I found the scenes between Malkin and Eichmann very well done with constant, underlying tension and relevant insight into both of the characters. Ben Kingsley did an excellent job of portraying Eichmann with cunning, intelligence and a subtle humanity. The character Peter Malkin was finely played by Oscar Isaac with a heartfelt passion, angst and determination that constantly drew me into the story. During the section of the film when the team was trying to get Eichmann out of Argentina, there was a steady build up of anxiety that had me on the edge of my seat, even though I knew the ultimate outcome.

This movie underlines the point of how challenging it would be to maintain self control when confronting an evil person who has committed violence to your family and your people. It shows the team struggling with this dynamic in various ways, and some of them briefly share which family members they lost in the war. The film also does a good job of emphasizing how incredibly difficult it was for the spy team to obey orders, keep Eichmann alive and return him to Israel, so their country could have a small piece of justice after the horrific crimes of the war.

I think it would have enriched both the characters and the movie if some of the team members had shared their personal stories of where they were during WWII and how they themselves had escaped persecution.

My interest in this time period of history is peeked since I didn't know much about Israel’s search for war criminals. This movie is a significant reminder of the post WWII Israeli time period and also serves as a memorial to the millions of Jews who were murdered by Nazis during the war.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Stephanie, age 57 (USA)
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