“I think perhaps you worry that the future will look like the past.”
At the end of World War II several high ranking Nazi officials escaped justice by taking their own life. Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, did not, opting instead to go into hiding and living a healthy life with his wife and two sons. Operation Finale is the story of those who sought justice, tracking down the man behind the complex concentration camp system and bringing him to justice - albeit in rather dramatic fashion.
Oscar Isaac stars as Peter Malkin, a Mossad agent who has struggled throughout his career to land the respect of his counterparts. Through a series of failed attempts, Malkin has lost a lot, including the love of his life, Hanna Elian (played flawlessly by Mélanie Laurent). As the film progresses from its information laden first act into its heightened second, you can’t help but realize that unlike other Holocaust-centric films, Operation Finale is playing more like a heist thriller.
Ben Kingsley, in his most complete performance in years, embodies that of Adolph Eichmann, a soft, reserved, and subdued man who works hard to fit in. Living under a secure cover for over a decade, Eichmann's true identity isn’t in jeopardy until his adult son spills his real name to his new girlfriend’s father that things begin to unravel, turning the isolate, countryside home where he lives into a crime scene.
But unlike regular heist films that work to impress with big theatrics, Operation Finale succeeds with its innate attention to detail. Its soft approach, albeit a bit tiresome at times, fits in with its 1960 setting. So though each action is deliberate, and each unforeseen complication a bit dramatic and overextended, you can’t deny the effectiveness that it offers as you feel engulfed within their all too real world.
As Isaac’s Malkin adopts the “good cop” mentality to keep the story evolving, and ultimately get Eichmann to corporate, it is their relationship that gives the film its pulse. The cat and mouse, back and forth games heighten the tension, allowing us to understand each man’s insecurities, their vulnerabilities, and ultimately answers the most significant question that Operation Finale asks: who they lost in the war.
It is hard not to compare Operation Finale to Ben Affleck’s Argo. Though the circumstances surrounding each group is entirely different, the slow burn approach to storytelling and the almost silent build-up of tension is impossible to ignore. That isn’t to say that the Chris Weitz directed film is as good as the Oscar-winning political thriller - it is not. However, the comparison is there nonetheless, and in the world of filmmaking, that is something worth relishing.