Written by Wayne Townsend
Operation Finale is a 2018 film distributed by MGM starring Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac, about the 1960 capture of Adolf Eichmann by the Israeli government. None of the characters had enough screen time devoted to them to develop a bond with the audience so the resolution of the inner conflicts each member of the capture squad and even Eichmann himself faced as a “soldier who was following orders,” was felt by the audience. Director Chris Wietz spends the two-hour running time reconstructing the operation and less time creating the intensity of the situation, as Eichmann represented the highest ranking official (Eichmann was the chief architect of the systematic execution of the Nazi Final Solution plan for the Jews), that would stand trial for war crimes. Kingley, as Eichmann gave a chilling performance as his depiction of a soldier proud of the way he was able to carry out his mandate with a cold efficiency, was a compelling watch. Isaac plays Peter Malkin, who had to wear gloves because the thought of touching Eichmann without them repulsed him. Isaac captured the professional nature of Malkin, which is the most important aspect of an intelligence agent, but in a dramatic interpretation, misses the opportunity to convey the internal struggle for Malkin. Malkin had several family members murdered because of standing orders under Nazi policies that were implemented in 1939 and morphed from deportation and devolved to extermination. A lot of “based on a true story” Hollywood films add, remove, or gloss over events or people due to time constraints, in a valid attempt to create a cohesive narrative. I often find myself wishing the producers of these films had simply let the history unfold. Operation Finale does just that, and it sacrificed the emotional impact this movie should have had. It falls into the “be careful what you wish for” category of giving the public (ie: me) what it wants, and I now must regretfully admit being a member of. Everyone has a worse moment in human history opinion, ethnic cleansing in Africa and the Balkans come to mind, but no one can argue the Final Solution is the worse state-sponsored legislation ever committed to paper for the express extermination of men, women, and children. The movie made some solemn points as to why the public trial of Eichmann was more important than putting a bullet to his head, as that was the standard treatment of found Nazi SS troops faced when found by Mossad agents. I don’t believe this film will hold up as time passes as it left too much emotion unexplored, leaving an opportunity for future filmmakers to retell this important part of, albeit abhorrent, human history. For this, it gets 2 ½ out of 5.