Directed by: Chris Weitz
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Mélanie Laurent
A team of Mossad and Shin Bet agents set out to track down and bring to trial Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), the Nazi officer who masterminded the Holocaust.
Based on a true story, Operation Finale is a drama that does the job it sets out to do. It’s a film that feels like its main aim was to tell this story with great care as its subject matter is naturally incredibly poignant. However, that does make for a film that is sensitive but is also lacking any tension or fleshed-out and interesting characters.
There’s a scene just before the team leaves Israel for Argentina where Eichmann is suspected to be hiding, where each member talks about who they lost in the Holocaust. It humanises them all and shows the personal stakes they each have in bringing this man to court. However, besides from that, a lot of the characters are interchangeable and have no real defining characteristics.
Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin, a man who’s typically a hitman but in this case is one of the guys planning the operation to take Eichmann alive. He gives a good performance, and there are flashbacks sprinkled throughout the film showing who was taken from him during the Holocaust, but he’s not a particularly layered character, instead mainly being the ‘Good Guy’ to Eichmann’s ‘Bad Guy’.
The scenes where it is just Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac in a room together talking are the most interesting. It’s verbal sparring at its finest as they play a game of cat and mouse with one another, both of them taking on the role of the negotiator as they try and get what they want.
Ben Kingsley is brilliant as Eichmann, straddling the line between heartless and sensitive. His previous actions make him irredeemable, but seeing him with his family, and how he talks about why he did what he did and how he was one part in a larger machine, makes him a fascinating villain. Everyone is drawn to him, even if they are repulsed by him, and Kingsley’s almost serene take on this man is great to watch.
There’s a lot of good things about Operation Finale; the acting, costumes and filming, but it’s never great. Unfortunately, it lacks the depth or intensity to make the story truly compelling. Many of the story beats are what we’ve seen before in the genre, with the finale especially feeling like a poor man’s Argo.
Operation Finale is a perfectly fine, well-intentioned film, that’s entertaining enough. It’s just a shame that with so much good stuff in it, it never becomes something memorable.