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Operation Finale – Review


Release Date: 3 October [Internet Release]
Director: Chris Weitz
Writer: Matthew Orton
Cast: Oscar Isaac - Ben Kingsley - Mélanie Laurent



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Posted October 14, 2018 by

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Operation Finale – Review

Based on true events, Operation Finale follows a group of Israeli secret agents on the search for Nazi Adolf Eichmann. Though initially an unknown figure, Eichmann’s extensive involvement in the Final Solution was discovered following the end of the Second World War.

At the start of the film, Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) leads an operation to capture a Nazi war criminal, currently in hiding with his family. Malkin practises his lines as he knocks on the door of the man, and manages to lure him out for his agents to take the Nazi to a spot in the woods to execute him. Malkin then enters the home to arrest the Nazi’s wife, only to realise he’s got the wrong family.

Operation Finale - Film Review

In Argentina, Sylvia Hermann (Haley Lu Richardson) takes a boy she likes, Klaus (Joe Alwyn), to meet her grandfather, Lothar (Peter Strauss). Lothar asks the boy for his name. Eichmann, says Klaus, but insists that his father was killed during the war, and that he is now living with his uncle, Ricardo Klement (Ben Kingsley).

In Israel, Isser Harel (Lior Raz) is informed about Lothar’s discovery. Initially, he dismisses it, but finally acquiesces to putting a team together to investigate the case. One of the members of his team is Malkin, slightly disgraced after his incident with the mistaken Nazi. Alongside Malkin is his former partner, Hanna Elian (Mélanie Laurent), a doctor who isn’t altogether onboard with the mission. Together with a team of six other agents, they find the clues to uncover Eichmann’s secret hiding place and concoct a plan to kidnap him to bring him to Israel where he can stand trial for his crimes as the ‘Architect of the Final Solution’.

But, no plan, however well thought-out, goes swimmingly. There are obstacles at every step; Eichmann is unceasingly stubborn, and the clandestine nature of the operation puts the team at risk of discovery even for the smallest of mistakes. When the team find themselves trapped in Argentina for longer than they had planned for, matters become even more heated. Amongst this group of Holocaust survivors is the man who worked towards destroying their race of people. Can they keep their emotions in check long enough for Eichmann to stand trial? Does he even deserve that much? These moral questions plague the agents as the clock keeps ticking towards their imminent discovery.

Operation Finale - Film Review - Cast

Films based on true stories always run the risk of diluting the facts with drama. This film is no different, even though it does try its best to stick to the original story as much as possible. However, a quick google will reveal the inaccuracies and the needless dramatizations included in the film.

Additionally, Operation Finale struggles to define the moral quandaries it aims to explore. Is Eichmann evil for following his orders? Or is he a man who believed himself to be a patriot? Will he really get a fair trial in Israel? What even constitutes a fair trial? The film tries to address these questions primarily through conversations between Eichmann and Malkin. In their respective roles, Kingsley and Isaac give powerful performances, full of righteous emotion. Their chemistry makes for engaging scenes, and Isaac, in particular, holds the attention of the camera in a way we have not seen from him before. But, acting can only do so much when the script is so spineless.

Operation Finale appears to be writer Matthew Orton’s debut writing project. One wonders why he was given such heavy subject-matter to tackle because the final product shows a lack of experience. Which is a shame – the premise is fascinating, the characters involved coming with their own rich histories. But, what we get is a condensed version of real events that do absolutely no one justice.

Director Chris Weitz, who returns to the director’s chair after a seven-year break, shows his rustiness. There are scenes that appear overlong, juxtaposed with others that lack detail. Many important inferences must be made by the audience without sufficient knowledge presented before-hand, and there is an over-reliance on telling, rather than showing. Weitz also plays up the Hollywood-isation of the film, adding a raid that never happened simply for suspense. That time could have been better spent answering the film’s core conundrum about humanity.

Operation Finale - Ben Kingsley

Despite Kingsley and Isaac’s chemistry, Kingsley’s performance almost seems by the book. He does justice to the role but fails to capture the nuance of the character. And, in a pivotal scene at the very end of the film, his eruption of anger seems too exaggerated to be logical or in-character. Kingsley has far too much experience to deliver so poor a scene. The shoddy de-aging effects did not help the matter, either.

Operation Finale - Review

Mélanie Laurent, who has high billing in this film, is barely given anything to do. Her Hanna is merely a foil, if not an obvious love interest, for Malkin. She barely gets to be on screen, and when she does, it is never in her own right. The original doctor on the mission was a man, and I was excited at the gender-swap, but, alas, as we have so often seen, if a female character is added into an all-male world, it is only for romantic purposes. Apparently, we still can’t have women who exist just for themselves.

Among the supporting cast, Michael Aronov’s Zvi Aharoni, the only one on the mission allowed to interrogate Eichmann, was mesmerising every time he was on screen. It is a shame that he wasn’t given more to do because his scenes with Eichmann were the most suspenseful in the entire film.

Operation Finale had the potential to be an excellent film but falls into clichés and tropes. The story it is based on is intriguing and suspenseful, but this film does not do it justice. The performances of the cast, no matter how strong, cannot elevate a script that required more thought and nuance. One can only hope this story will be told again in a few years when it is in better hands.


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Louis Skye
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