What are you supposed to do after capturing a monster? Kill on site, torture, or ask questions about their particular brand of madness.
A group of Israeli agents (including Oscar Isaac's Peter Malkin) faced this tall task back in 1960 with the pursuit, capture, and ensuing interrogation of Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), who was the last living mastermind behind the Holocaust at the time. He was the one who arranged for the transport of six million Jewish souls to their death in those concentration camps. The 2018 movie scored a 60% percent on Rotten Tomatoes, with Chris Weitz's film being touted as a potentially big film that missed the mark. It just hit Netflix this week, so I finally watched it. Here are my thoughts.
Kingsley is the reason to watch
How good of an actor is he? He played Itzhak Stern in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," starring opposite Liam Neeson's Oscar Schindler and Ralph Fiennes's Amon Goeth. Here, he's on the other side, bringing quiet menace to the role of Eichmann, a man who couldn't escape his bloody past of compliance. Certain actors are good at their job, and others just seem born to do it. To Kingsley, who can play even a goofy fake terrorist in a Marvel movie and a maniac in "Sexy Beast," it comes off as natural. In "Finale," he adds a seething rage underneath the surface of a man who tried to hide his evil. While the film overall is faulty and doesn't convince, Kingsley's work in the final scenes of the film will shake your soul around a little.
The film is painfully divided in tone and focus
Half of the film is the pursuit, and the other half of the interrogation and escape. But Weitz, and screenwriter Matthew Orton, don't know which side they are more fascinated with. It's a tug of war between film purpose. Since Eichmann was living in secrecy, under the painted veil of a different name, the agents had to take risks in pursuing a man who still had protection, including Klaus Eichmann (Joe Alwyn, trapped in an underwritten role). And the planning and action of the capture is the best part of the film. It's just too bad there was still an hour of movie left. The filmmakers should have chosen one part of the story to tell. Perhaps a better TV show idea or docu-series.
Greg Hill is better here than Isaac
And that's not a shot at Hill, who has a small role as the agent who would like Eichmann to skip the trial and head straight to the dirt. There's something rustic and old fashioned tough about Hill's face and expression (he could play Holt McCallany's brother in a flash), that is painfully missing in the star of the film. Isaac is a terrific talent who can morph, like Kingsley, into many shades and personalities. But here, he just seems lost. The screenplay isn't bad, but the follow-through from the biggest person in the film simply doesn't convince. Even great actors can stick out like a sore thumb in the wrong project. When the film needed that gritty-type performance from Isaac, he simply couldn't deliver-and it hurts the movie's impact.
Weitz is out of his element
It's like Diet "Munich" with an arbitrary layup imitation of "Argo." And it doesn't feel good at all. Outside of Kingsley and a handful of scenes, Weitz is wearing someone else's clothes behind the camera. The dazzle and finish that resonated with 2002's "About a Boy" got lost in one of the worst "Twilight" movies and the misguided Daniel Craig-Nicole Kidman adventure, "The Golden Compass." A story with so much juice here gets the factory pressed treatment instead of real hand-stitching-and it's sad. Hugh Grant is waiting to make a sequel to that one great film you made, Chris. Give him a call.
I saw a better movie in there somewhere
Once again, "Operation Finale" tries to be two movies at once instead of sticking to Eichmann and his inner demons or lack thereof. There's mystery and weight in that chase, and this movie wastes the opportunity to explore that further. But a couple moments make you realize there was something much better inside this film. A wide shot of innocent Jewish families huddled together in a dugout pit of sorts, begging for their lives. Those shots never waver in any production. After all, the Eichmann trial gave the world the first true account of those concentration camps. The witnesses who spoke there shaped the horrific world that the Nazi Party built. But those spellbinding shots are few and far in-between, losing resonance as the film loses its focus.
Click play or scroll on? I would suggest you read up on the man and the trial that stunned the world, and keep scrolling for better content than this.