The biggest shock about Operation Finale (2018) was the levity of the film. A movie that features a team of secret agents going to track down a Nazi officer to put him on trial seems like it would be unbearably heavy. Watch the trailer, and it seems as if it will be a film full of tense interrogations and suspenseful moments of anticipation of capture. While those moments exist in the film, they hardly represent the overall tone the film takes. That said, it’s not a bad thing – and the film was generally well-crafted and extremely watchable.
Operation Finale was compelling
Adolph Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) is found living in Argentina in 1960, and Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) is sent by the Israeli government to extract him. This covert operation will potentially violate extradition laws, but they don’t want Eichmann to simply be killed. The Jewish people want to see the “architect” tried for his crimes through public trial, making the mission all the more important.
The biggest shock of the film is the initial approach to the character of Eichmann. Peter’s interactions with Eichmann become the central aspects of the film as time passes, and not in the way the trailer would make you expect. The conversations are civil, and Eichmann is not depicted to be the monster most would rightfully associate with a Nazi leader often credited with planning the Holocaust. In a time where Nazi’s have made themselves public again and aren’t afraid to organize, creating a film that paints one of history’s most notorious factions of monsters as human is questionable at best. However, the film’s manipulation of the character does eventually turn, and counters some of its claims.
Isaac is in his comedic wit style of character in this film, which was also a shock. In a film that reminded me of Argo much of the time, Isaac’s repeated comedic moments felt slightly out of place, but still engaging. That wit plays often when he’s with Eichmann, and exhibits Peter’s willingness to not be wrong again. There is an early scene which depicts Peter tracking down another Nazi general who is quickly executed, and revealed to be the wrong Nazi soldier. The idea of some men just following orders and not necessarily agreeing with them becomes a constant theme that Peter toils over.
Many of the ideas in the film feel undercooked and never truly say anything, which is best illustrated by the fairly boring climax of the movie. Potential spoiler for a true story that’s also a little bit predictable about to drop right here: the big escape sequence that one could see coming in a movie about spies entering into a country and leaving with someone all winds up with Isaac running a piece of paper from an airplane to the air traffic control tower. The choice he’s forced to make soon has no weight, as there are no real consequences of his choice, or anyone else’s on this team.
The story of this team of spies finding and retrieving Eichmann is compelling enough, and the cast delivers some memorable moments. Nonetheless, there are a number of ideas that never really develop, and the movie allows us to stew in that lukewarm broth for far too long. By the end of the film, you’ll likely feel an odd mix of having eaten quite a bit, but not quite feeling very satisfied. Operation Finale earns a Decent Watch rating, primarily because Kingsley and Isaac are just too compelling to not enjoy.