Operation Finale. Directed by Chris Weitz. Produced by Automatik Entertainment, 2018.
It is a rare occasion when I truly enjoy a movie. Considering the cost associated with having a complete movie experience (buying a ticket, popcorn, and a drink), the reward generally falls short of the investment. Even more so for films based on historical events. Frequently, historically based films require a creative license to produce a story that can understood in a limited time frame and that is commercially viable. However. creative license often challenges historical accuracy. Operation Finale proved to be a movie I enjoyed. Creative license was taken, and the film is not accurate to history, but I enjoyed it because it delivered a few things I rarely experience with modern movies.
First, it feels timely. It is right to the period it portrays. Set in the early 1960’s, Operation Finale tells the story of how Israeli Intelligence agents captured Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Beyond the obvious cues to period (costume, hair styles, behavior, cars), it also conveys how Eichmann’s resurfacing occurred in a time of transition. Fifteen years after the end of World War II, and sixteen years after the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials, Israel is a budding nation facing serious challenges. Not everyone involved believed that Israel should expend the resources needed to capture, transport, and successfully bring Eichmann to trial. Operation Finale conveys the notion that Eichmann’s reappearance was an example of the past imposing itself on the present.
Second, it felt like a movie that belonged to the early 1960’s. Thankfully there is no celebration of the anti-hero. Adolf Eichmann is clearly a bad guy. The depth of his evil is established in simple contrasts depicted throughout the movie. A man who has loving concern for his own, is willing to callously destroy the same of others. These contrasts support the good versus evil motif. The Israeli agents sent to apprehend Eichmann are clearly good guys. The film considers the human burden assumed by those who brought Nazi war criminals to justice, without creating a moral equivalency between war criminals and those that brought war criminals to justice. Although the agents struggle to engage a man (and an ideology) they understandably despise, the characters do not wallow in their demons. Like a film from the 1960’s there are no gratuitous injections of overt violence or sex. There are no implicit endorsements of modern political positions.
Third, the cast. Ben Kingsley is brilliant as Eichmann. You must see the film to understand how accurately portrays Eichmann’s mannerisms. Oscar Isaac’s is great in the role of Peter Malkin, the lead Israeli agent. Others with strong performances include: Nick Kroll, Michael Aronov, and Lior Raz. One creative liberty is with the character Hanna Elian played by Mélanie Laurent. The mission’s doctor was a man named Yohan Elian. Director Chris Weitz delivers suspense without sensation.
Although I both enjoyed and highly recommend Operation Finale, the movie is a dramatization. I hope viewers do not rely on the film as history. There are several other works (movies and books) that also deal with the story. I will provide links to books about the mission that captured Adolf Eichmann and to articles that highlight some of the historical discrepancies created to produce a cinematic work.