Operation Finale

I have the same problem with this movie that I had with Blackkklansman. No, not the fact that it had a dude from Star Wars in it fighting evil. It’s the fact that they take what was a true story, and fictionalize so much of it. Now, this movie didn’t fictionalize nearly as much. Most of this story was accurate. Although it had a moment that was straight out of Argo (that was fictionalized), and the entire movie felt like (the much better) The Debt. And having Adolf Eichmann locked up and not signing something they needed, was completely made up. Screenwriter Matthew Orton (or perhaps director Chris Weitz), just wanted to give it some more drama and suspense. Speaking of the director, he did a Twilight movie and The Golden Compass. Perhaps he wasn’t up to the task of making a serious thriller.

The story takes place 15 years after World War II, and after Nuremberg. Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) is a Palestine-raised Jew that helps capture surviving S.S. members. The film starts with him being involved in one extraction that goes wrong. But despite that mishap, he’s ready to get the band back together. That includes his old girlfriend (Melanie Laurent), a nurse that helps administer the knock-out drugs. And what would make these guys do such a dangerous operation in Buenos Aires (where many Nazis live because they don’t extradite) — they think they may have found Adolf Eichmann. That’s because a young woman named Sylvia (Haley Lu Richardson) is at a theatre watching Imitation of Life, and some young men are laughing at inappropriate times in the film. It leads her to meeting the blonde Klaus Eichmann (Joe Alwyn), who makes the mistake of telling her his family name. Big mistake, especially since her blind dad is smart enough to play along, and pretend he hates Jews.

Eichmann was working as a manager at a Mercedes Benz factory, but this was a guy that was one of the highest-ranking member of Hitler’s inner circle.

So, international law be damned, these guys in Tel Aviv devise a plan to capture him and bring him to Israel, so he can stand trial.

This movie ends up becoming almost the exact same film as The Debt. Yet when the doctor in that film taunts his captors, it’s mesmerizing. Here, it just doesn’t feel authentic. Now, it’s great we have Eichmann played by Sir Ben Kingsley, but according to the things I found out about this operation, he was a lot more meek than the film played out. In the attempt to make this more thrilling, they make him more of a nasty cuss who can play mind games like an evil genius (think Anthony Hopkins toying with Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs).

That doesn’t mean some of the scenes with Isaac and Kingsley conversing in the safe house aren’t intriguing. They are (but again, they were in The Debt, too).

Speaking of other movies, I thought about how they first get Eichmann to admit who he really is. They’re saying his ID number wrong, and he finally snaps, correcting them. I thought of how much more dramatic it was when Tom Cruise taunts Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, until he snaps and admits to ordering the code red. And this entire scene in Operation Finale bothers me, since it never happened. Eichmann quickly admitted to who he was, instead of this manufactured Hollywood scenario.

It was baffling how many scenes felt like they were straight out of The Debt, including one that involves a shave with a straight razor placed on the throat of a Nazi we all wouldn’t mind seeing killed. Oh, and speaking of other movies this reminded me of, I preferred Kingsley being captured in Roman Polanski’s Death and the Maiden about 15 years ago. It was a much better movie, and we never knew if Kingsley would break, and admit to being an evil rapist.

Alexandre Desplat gave another outstanding score (although in one scene it felt out of place).

There’s some great supporting work by Nick Kroll, playing against type.

I just wish the movie wasn’t so derivative, and was a bit more subtle.

2 ½ stars out of 5.