Movie Review: “Operation Finale”
Set after World War II, one of the masterminds behind The Holocaust is still at large. Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) was responsible for organizing the mass deportation of Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. Many see Adolf Eichmann as one of the key figures of the Nazi Regime and justifiably see him as largely responsible for the deaths of six million Jews. Unfortunately, little is known of his wherebouts after the war.
Fifteen years after World War II, top-secret Israeli agents receive intel of Adolf Eichmann’s whereabouts and his current identity. The agents travel to Argentina in an attempt to discretely extract Adolf and return him to Israel where he will be put on trial to answer for the six million lives he took during The Holocaust. This will not be an easy mission, however. In order to avoid international conflict, the agents must abduct Adolf and get him to willingly agree to go to Israel. Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) hopes to be the agent that is responsible for bringing Adolf in, but he will need to rely on his team if they are to have any hope of success.
The Pros & Cons
Ben Kingsley (+10pts)
Oscar Isaac (+5pts)
Side Characters (-4pts)
The Holocaust (+4pts)
Klaus & Silvia (-3pts)
Pro: Ben Kingsley (+10pts)
Has Ben Kingsley ever been in anything where he was not great? This movie is further evidence (as if we needed any) that Ben Kingsley is one of the greatest actors of our time. In this movie, he plays a character that we (as an audience) cannot easily sympathize with. However, Ben Kingsley is able to make audiences question how bad this guy really was. He makes audiences actually sympathize with him while also playing the character in an intense way. The intensity made it impossible to look away during the movie’s slowest moments. Ben Kingsley was as great as he was captivating.
His character is mean and is severely racist. It would have been very easy to make this a one-note character, but Ben Kingsley gave this role layers that I was not expecting. The character is intense, and audiences will sympathize with him anyway, but this character is given an extra layer by audiences not knowing his true intentions. The guy is either playing mind games or is truly guilty over what he has done. Audiences will honestly not know which is the truth, and this is a credit to Ben Kingsley‘s performance.
Con: Slow (-8pts)
This was kind of expected given the plot of the movie, but this movie felt slower than I anticipated. This movie can be broken down into parts and all of them were slow. The first part is the agents organizing the mission. In this part we see Peter talking to other agents who will be involved, trying to recruit his ex-girlfriend, and coming up with a plan. The second part of the movie consists of the agents in Argentina trying to gather intelligence on, and the learn habits of, Adolf Eichmann. They are trying to find the best moment to abduct him without witnesses.
I will not get into the third and fourth parts of the story to avoid spoilers but what I can mention is that they were not any more eventful then the rest of the story. This is a dialogue heavy movie that does not really have a satisfying pay off. Yes, the story has a conclusion, but it does not have a cinematic one. It just tells the audience what happened and ends without giving audiences any sort of impact. A slow burning story can be impactful if there is a big pay off. This, however, is a slow, dialogue heavy story with a lack-luster finish.
Pro: Oscar Isaac (+5pts)
Ben Kingsley was the obvious standout of this movie. His character was complex and layered, and Ben Kingsley shined in the role. That being said, Oscar Isaac deserves a ton of credit for his performance here. This is not an artsy performance that will win any awards, but he gave depth to his fairly generic character. I will be honest, the character was written poorly, but Oscar Isaac did a great job at making the character interesting anyway. The character is Jewish and lived in Israel during The Holocaust. Naturally, he has lost loved ones and is on a revenge mission against Adolf Eichmann (who he sees as largely responsible).
There is not anything about this character that is complex. His story is, sadly, the same story as millions of people during that time. Furthermore, it is the same story as every other agent in this movie, but Oscar Isaac did a fantastic job of making this character’s journey feel compelling. Maybe it was his tone, maybe it was the visible pain beneath the surface, but I found myself inferested in this character’s story (more so than his fellow agents). This is incredibly important because, as great as he was, Ben Kingsley needed a fellow actor to play off. Without Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley would have been acting circles around generic characters which would have been very uninteresting to see.
Con: Side Characters (-4pts)
I do not have too much to say for this point which is a testament to how generic and uninteresting the side characters were. In the beginning of the movie, we see nameless, faceless Israeli agents coming together and organizing a plan. None of them have any depth and none of them go through any growth. They are extremely generic characters that do not seem to serve a specific purpose (except for Hanna), other than to make the appearance that this was an agency fulfilling this mission and not just one or two agents. The result was a movie that was almost infested with forgetful characters who audiences will not care about.
Pro: The Holocaust (+4pts)
Some movies use The Holocaust as a gimmick, others use it to easily create antagonists that audiences will hate (because, you know...Nazis), but this movie did a great job of making the audience feel the dark weight that fell on the world during and long after the horrific things that took place during the war. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like, but this movie did a good job of giving audiences a small taste of that pain. Watching loved ones brutally murdered is a horrific thing to experience, yet every agent had experienced just that. The Holocaust can be a tricky thing to convey to audiences that were not alive to experience it themselves, but I thought this movie did a good job of conveying the weight and trauma that lives in each of these characters. As a result, audiences will connect with the characters (to an extent) and will want to see Adolf Eichmann brought to justice.
Con: Klaus & Silvia (-3pts)
This storyline was one of the key elements that led to the discovery of Adolf Eichmann’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, there was absolutely nothing special about this storyline or either character in it. Klaus is a Nazi. That is pretty much all you need to know about him and the character is just as generic as you would imagine a Nazi antagonist to be. Silvia had potential, but the filmmakers dropped the ball with her. She was raised a Christian, falls in love with a Nazi, then learns that her family is Jewish. There was a lot that could have been done with this character, but the movie was too cluttered with generic side characters, so the filmmakers did not have the time (or the desire) to push the development of Silvia.
Grade: C+ (79pts)
Operation Finale had all the makings of a very impactful drama, but the filmmakers failed to capitalize on this opportunity. The movie has very talented stars with Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac. Ben Kingsley gave a fantastic performance that will have audiences sympathizing with the character, even though he is the Nazi responsible for orchestrating a little thing called The Holocaust. He was a terrible man, but Ben Kingsley gives a fantastic, relatable performance. Oscar Isaac does not do anything incredible but he is able to add depth to his generic character. The same cannot be said for the rest of the cast.
The rest of the cast is filled with generic characters and uninteresting performances which, due to the heavy setup and heavy dialogue, will leave audiences a bit bored. The filmmakers were able to maintain some level of interest by how well they depicted the emotional weight of The Holocaust. These characters endured terrible things and, while all of this happened off screen, the actors were able to convey their characters’ pain to the audience which will have audiences seeking justice. There were a lot of good things about this movie, but the filmmakers struggled to connect them. What we are left with is a very slow burning movie that has heavy dialogue, mostly uninteresting characters, and a lack luster conclusion.