Operation Finale (2018)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on September 5, 2018 @ tonymacklin.net.

Operation Finale is a stylish entertainment.

It may be hard to deal with a film that comes with such hideous baggage. Although the film is about the quest to bring to justice Adolph Eichmann, the "architect of the Final Solution," the Holocaust looms at the edges of the film in all its despicable evil.

When actor Ben Kingsley as Eichmann and the filmmakers bring some charm to the character of Eichmann - e.g. holding his son and watching the trains at night as they rush by his window - they take us on a leap.

One remembers the Hannah Arendt's phrase, "the banality of evil."

Along with humanization of Eichmann, Operation Finale also takes us on a mission of justice. Of course, justice is not enough, but it attempts to offer a lasting monument.

Operation Finale, based on actuality, is the tale of Israeli agents tracking down Eichmann in Buenos Aires and setting out to bring him to justice. Eichmann is living with his family and has a normal job in Argentina.

Buenos Aires has a strong group of Nazis and Nazi sympathizers in its midst. In an indoor rally which Eichmann attends, a spokesman calls for "the iron bond between church and state." The gathered crowd screams its applause.

But the agents are coming by stealth. Their mission faces great danger.

Some reviewers have dismissed the film, because they think it has too much talking. Where are the explosions?

In 2018 dialogue seems to be a liability. It's not instant gratification.

But director Chris Weitz cares about language. Language helps define character. Weitz is an actors' director, so he makes sure they have something to say.

Weitz's forte is establishing chemistry between characters - and the actors who perform the roles. He created great chemistry between Hugh Grant and Nicholas Hoult in the enchanting About a Boy (2002).

In Operation Finale, the chemistry between Oscar Isaac (Peter Malkin) and Ben Kingsley (Adolph Eichmann) is compelling. Isaac is forceful as the impulsive Malkin, and Kingsley is subtle as Eichmann. The best scenes in the film are the sparring conversations between the two, each trying to get supremacy.

Melanie Laurent is convincing as a smart, influential agent.

Weitz's direction keeps the suspense simmering, not burning.

There is one scene of torture, but in general Weitz avoids explicit violence. Killing mostly is spattering.

The screenplay by Mathew Orton renders dialogue of import.

Javier Aguirrearobe effectively creates a sense of the past with his evocative cinematography. And today's omnipresent composer Alexandre Desplat provides mood with his music.

But the film relies on its acting.

And acting is the indomitable strength of Operation Finale.

© 2000-2018 Tony Macklin