Operation Finale (2018)
Director – Chris Weitz
Writer – Matthew Orton
Starring – Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Mélanie Laurent
Rating – PG-13
Genre – Biography, Drama, History, Thriller
Metascore – 58/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 60%
In 1960, Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was captured by Mossad operatives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Operation Finale is the story of that mission. Directed by Chris Weitz and starring Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, and Mélanie Laurent, Operation Finale is an exciting historical thriller despite a slow start and shying away from some of the more interesting questions raised by the tale.
Eichmann’s trial in 1960 was bathed in controversy. Many were concerned with the legal issues of kidnapping a person in one country to be tried in a second for the crimes he committed in a third. While he was eventually hanged in Jerusalem, these were challenging issues. While alluding to a few of these, the film never really probed them. Mostly, they were pushed aside as the desperate negotiations of a guilty man, which made it tough to take them seriously.
Operation Finale begins as a bit of an ensemble feature, as the Mossad team comes together and travels to Buenos Aires. However, it quickly becomes a duet of Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley, as Peter Malkin and Adolf Eichmann, respectively. Once their characters are brought together, the film quickly zooms in on their relationship and conversations with spectacular result. There isn’t much straightforward action in the film, but the verbal sparring between Kingsley and Isaac delivers a lot of tension, balancing between allowing empathy for Eichmann and revealing the terrors he was to be tried for.
Isaac and Kingsley were easily the best aspect of Operation Finale. In fact, they succeed at times to the detriment of the supporting cast. While I imagine the ensemble cast was due large in part to maintaining historical accuracy, the screen felt crowded at times. From a narrative standpoint, too many characters were only plot devices, with no fleshed out desires or conflicts.
Regrettably, Operation Finale takes too long to get moving. There is conflict in the beginning that should have either been explored deeper or left out entirely. As the film stands, the first act drags as plot pieces are moved into place. Characterization on the front end of the film feels stilted, and doesn’t add much to the overall narrative. However, once Operation Finale picks up speed as the movie progresses, it is able to maintain excellent pacing for the remainder of its runtime. More care in editing the film could have produced a cleaner story with just as much narrative force, maybe even leaving time to consider some of the deeper ethical questions raised by the operation.
Operation Finale is a film about an operation wrapped in controversy, pain, and a deep longing for justice. While exciting, I would have loved to see the film spend less time on the operation itself, but instead probing the deeper questions it brought to the surface. However, incredible performances by Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley make for a thrilling filmgoing experience.
Author: Josh Johnson