Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures’ Operation Finale is a WWII drama starring Academy Award Winner Sir Ben Kingsley (Gandhi, Schindler’s List) and Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ex Machina). It takes us on the journey of the capture the “architect of the final solution” Adolf Eichmann at his new home in Argentina.
The film starts off with a woman’s face looking out to the audience. She is staring into your eyes. From the context and music, you can tell she is a Jewish girl in WWII. Her eyes are not sad or scared. The face has accepted its fate as another victim of the Holocaust. Her death takes place in the woods. A place so peaceful however in mere minutes the peace is driven out by her body hanging from a branch.
It then cuts to Peter Malkin (Isaac) in a car, practicing German. We, the audience quickly learns that the woman is a memory of his. What you do not know, who the woman was to him. From the trailer you know he is a member of a top-secret team of Israeli agents. After WWII the Israel army searched for and captured Nazi officers who ran and hid after the war. You see them catch a Nazi officer around Christmas time. Come to find it out it was the wrong officer, but that killing him was just in some of his colleague’s eyes because he was after all a Nazi.
It is fifteen years after the end of World War II, Malkin (Isaac) and fellow agents travel to Argentina where Eichmann (Kingsley) has been in hiding together with his family under an alias Ricardo Klement and execute an extremely dangerous abduction.
This is where the film stands out compared to other WWII films. Most WWII films show the horrors of the Holocaust during the war or Germany before it fell into Nazi control. However, Operation Finale illustrates and educates the audience about the aftermath of the war. The ripple effect the war had on young adults that lost their family members or their whole family while still trying to be a typical 30 something and rebuild their lives. The ripple effect it had on people who always believed in Hitler after Hitler himself took his own life.
The climax of the film happens quite quickly. The capture is somewhat seamless. The agents were almost caught on the dark dirt road Eichmann lived, but the mission was a success.
However soon afterward Eichmann’s son Klaus (Joe Alwyn) finds his father’s glasses on the road and knows his father was captured. The relationship between Klaus (Alwyn) and Eichmann (Kingsley) is a bit surreal. It’s not a typical father/son relationship. Klaus idealizes his father and therefore because his father is a Nazi, he becomes a Nazi. He doesn’t take the time out to figure out his own beliefs or question his father. Even when Klaus starts dating a young girl, Slyvia Herman, (Haley Lu Richardson) who turns out to be Jewish. For a brief moment, you can tell he is conflicted. Their ten-minute breakup scene in the film pulled on my romantic heartstrings. But once his father is captured, he goes back to his beliefs. His character is a clear example that hate and ignorance is nurture, not nature.
For ten days the Israeli agents are in a safe house with the man who was in charge of killing their family members. You can feel the tension and excitement in the room. They cannot leave Argentina because their plane is delayed, due to the right-wing populist politicians in the area looking for Eichmann. Then it turns out; they need Eichmann to sign a letter stating he willing will go to Israel to stand trial. So it’s ten days of Malkin and Eichmann playing a game of wits. Malkin needs him to sign this paper.
This is where the film direction gets a little a muddy. Because the climax already happened, it just seems like a delayed wait for the audience. You don’t know if the film wants to illustrate that at the end of the day we are all human and we should find a middle ground or that Eichmann is evil. You don’t know if Malkin is giving in or playing giving in. For example, Malkin (Issac) tells Eichmann (Kingsley) about the woman. The woman was his older sister, who died in the war. He doesn’t know how, just that she and her three young children died. So for a while, you do not know what emotion you are supposed to feel.
At the end of the film, with one line (I won’t give it away, you have to watch the movie), you know they want you to feel nothing but disgust for Eichmann (Kingsley).
Overall this film is well acted, well directed and has a stellar cast. The beat and the tempo of the film could have better placed. Operation Finale is a good reminder that war and war crimes do not end when the war is over. It ends when justice is served.