The abduction of Adolph Eichmann is thrilling and historical.
Director: Chris Weitz (About a Boy)
Screenplay: Matthew Orton
Cast: Oscar Isaac (A Most Violent Year), Ben Kingsley (Gandhi)
Runtime: 2hr 2 min
by John DeSando
“The banality of evil” … Hannah Arendt
The abduction of Adolph Eichmann in May 1960 Argentina is the stuff of thrillers, in the spirit of true-inspired films like Munich and Inglorious Basterds. What makes Operation Finale unique and watchable is the acting of Oscar Isaac as the primary captor, Peter Malkin, and Ben Kingsley as “the architect of the Holocaust.” When the two are together, the screen heats up with truth and passion in a muted, underplayed power.
In an expert summer thriller directed by Chris Weitz and written by Matthew Orton, Isaac portrays a Nazi hunter along with Mossad operatives charged to perform the abduction; he carries a burden of memory for his sister lost with millions of other captured Jews. His portrayal is humane, sympathetic, and vengeful. Kingsley portrays a charming monster capable of civility and reason as he spars with Isaac about responsibility when like so many other Nazis he claims to have been taking orders.
Kingsley’s Eichmann has minor mannerisms revealing a fastidious killer who can evidence love for his family although he eliminated millions with the nod of his head. His joke about Goebbels, Goring, and Hitler humanizes him, no doubt to the chagrin to more than a few in the audience.
Ever controlled, he converses with Peter as a caring neighbor might under better circumstances. Kingsley exudes the confidence and malignity necessary to be the architect.
Although I suspect the barely escaping plane at the end is as contrived as the airport race at the end of Munich, the heart of this true story is the dilemma all principals face when bringing justice to a wretch who deserves a bullet between the eyes before the long trial begins. Peter struggles with that demon as anyone would do.
Operation Finale, perhaps too seriously traditional, is another of the docudramas that draw us in even as we know the outcome. That’s entertaining story telling about grim history.
“The Holocaust was the most evil crime ever committed.” Stephen Ambrose
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com