I wasn’t expecting much out of “Operation Finale,” a post WWII drama about the arrest and persecution of one of the Holocaust masterminds Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962). But as I sat down watching it, I was interested, not just the biography, but also the performances that make it watchable. In fact, that’s mainly why you should see it.
The movie takes place in Buenos Aires of 1960, where the young Sylvia Herman (Haley Lu Richardson) falls for Klaus (Joe Alwyn) at the movies. Don’t expect it to be a love story, because Sylvia is Jewish, and Klaus is the son of Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), the man responsible for transporting people to their horrible demises, who is posing as an Argentine named Ricardo Klement.
When word of this gets out, the Mossad devises a plan to capture Adolf, and put him on trial. Among the members is Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac, also a producer), who lost his sister and nephew to the monster, and struggles to ease his emotions during his interrogation. They have to hold him for days, until their plane is ready for take off, and Eichmann has a better connection with Malkin than the other agents. He has his own ways of convincing Eichmann to sign the documents for his trial, while he wants to reveal his own truth about what happened during the war.
Directed by Chris Weitz, “Operation Finale” is not at all a masterpiece, because of its character study, which basically skims along, and assumes the plot will take care of it for them. It just doesn’t seem to care about the important ones, that is if they’re were meant to be important. I don’t know.
For example, the female characters like Sylvia and Malkin’s love interest-a doctor named Hanna (Melanie Laurent)- are given the short end of the stick, while the men are given more credit. It was hard for me to understand the relationship, and I wanted to see more out of the young lady. The movie seems to care more about the men than the women, according to what I am seeing.
But apart from that, the movie has moments and performances worth watching. Isaac gives an emotional performance, as his character deals with the horrors and angers he has against Eichmann. In fact, he does a better job than Paul Rudd did in the recent WWII baseball drama “The Catcher Was a Spy,” and in spite of my negative review, I liked him in that. This was better.
But it’s Kingsley who works wonders out of all the other stars in the movie. Sure, it’s no “Schindler’s List,” but what can I say? I really liked him as Eichmann. He’s charming, vulnerable, and provocative, even if we despise his character for what he has done. He’s a monster like Adolf Hitler, and yet Kingsley is amazing.
And I also liked the scenes when the Mossad extract the monster from his usual bus stop, take him to their safe house, and eventually get him out of the country with the right documents and IDs. Obviously, “Argo” did a better job at this kind of material, but usually, these type of scenes keep me at the edge of my seat. I just love looking at escape scenes.
I can’t promise you it’s a great history movie; but what I can guarantee is you’ll admire the performances more than anything out of the movie. It’s an imperfect drama, but a good one. And trust me, I’ve seen weaker ones of its kind.