A team of Israeli secret agents from the Mossad, led by Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), work to track down and capture Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), who is taking refuge in Argentina. Eichmann was the Nazi officer who masterminded the Holocaust. The film is based on a true story and takes inspiration from Malkin’s memoir ‘Eichmann in My Hands.’
‘Operation Finale’ is released on Netflix today and while it is working off a fascinating story and a talented cast which includes Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley and Mélanie Laurent (‘Inglorious Basterds’), the movie fails to become a war epic to rival the likes of what has preceded it.
The opening titles of the film inform us that between 1939 and 1945, the Nazis killed over ten million ‘enemies of the state’, six million of them being European Jews. Hitler, Himmler and Goering committed suicide but the fourth man responsible for the Holocaust – Eichmann, the head of the ‘Office of Jewish Affairs during the war – disappeared.
Given the circumstances and atrocities committed during the Holocaust, the search for Eichmann is a personal matter, as the Jewish spies seek retribution for what happened. This is represented well, while the activities we see of the remaining Nazis and anti-Semitics in 1960s Argentina inspire genuine horror in the viewer. Elsewhere, tonally, the movie is all over the place.
As the team of agents form their plan and make the appropriate arrangements, the plot incorporates a zippy style of editing and music, with the feel of ‘Catch Me If You Can’, or ‘Argo’, or a heist movie, which doesn’t really fit in with the sombre tone of the backdrop as to why they’re after Eichmann. The film doesn’t have quite the intensity or grip that past World War II dramas have, and the team members are generally interchangeable as characters.
Director Chris Weitz’s past film credits (having gone from ‘About A Boy’ to box office flop ‘The Golden Compass’, then ‘The Twilight Saga: New Moon’) reflect the disjointed nature of the movie and while it is an admirable attempt as a writing debut for Matthew Orton, the dialogue doesn’t always ring true. One feels like he is trying to mimic Steven Spielberg movies he has seen, and while the movie is clearly working off a modest budget, this is no excuse for a poor script.
We have seen Oscar Isaac do better, but this is not so much his fault as that of his undeveloped character. Though his characterisation could’ve been more refined, Kingsley does bring an impressive sense of presence, and in fairness, when he and Isaac share the screen, and it takes a while to get there, electricity sparks between them.
There was a whole trial aspect to the Eichmann story, whereby the trial was televised globally and for the first time, eyewitness accounts of the Holocaust were publicised to the world. It strikes one as fascinating, and could have warranted a whole movie in itself. However, rather than exploring the trial, the movie concludes just before it, explaining its aftermath in the end titles. A missed opportunity, as the film is overall.
'Operation Finale' is available on Netflix from today.