Reviewed by: Keith Rowe
Jewish Holocaust in Europe
What is SIN AND WICKEDNESS? Is it just “bad people” that are sinners, or are YOU a sinner? Answer
Sin is in each of us—not just the susceptibility to sin, but sin itself. Sinners need a Savior.
Are you good enough to get to Heaven? Answer
How good is good enough? Answer
Will all mankind eventually be saved? Answer
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
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
Oscar Isaac … Peter Malkin
Ben Kingsley … Adolph Eichmann
Mélanie Laurent … Hanna Elian
Haley Lu Richardson … Sylvia Hermann
Lior Raz … Isser Harel
Nick Kroll … Rafi 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 Strauss … Lothar Hermann
Pêpê Rapazote … Carlos Fuldner
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|Director:||Chris Weitz—“The Twilight Saga: New Moon” (2009), “The Golden Compass” (2007), “About a Boy” (2002)|
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“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.
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.
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.
“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.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.