Film Review: “Operation Finale” Boasts Strong Leads but Deserves Stronger Direction

Film poster: “Operation Finale”

Operation Finale (Chris Weitz, 2018) 3 out of 4 stars.

Set 15 years after the devastating events of World War Two, Operation Finale tells the story of Israeli secret agent Peter Malkin, played by Oscar Isaac, and his team, tasked with capturing the elusive Nazi SS officer Adolf Eichmann, played by Sir Ben Kingsley. Understanding the significance of bringing the man who is widely considered the architect of the Jewish Holocaust, Malkin and his team are willing to put their lives on the line to transport Eichmann to Israel where he will await his punishment. Considering the insurmountable dramatic weight of Nazi officer Adolph Eichmann and his involvement in the orchestration of the Holocaust, the suspense and the following thrills and chills should come gift-wrapped to any director who is willing to drop the audience into the misery and pain of one of the greatest atrocities against humanity.

Screenwriter Matthew Orton gives director Chris Weitz the setup and twist and turns he needs to keep the audience on the edge of their seats for two hours, yet the film’s momentum fails to gain traction after the first act. A steady pace plagues the chase and high stakes of Operation Finale. The absence of momentum and identifiable shifts in pacing prevent the audience from adequately reacting to Peter’s and his team’s triumphs and follies. The pure enjoyment of Operation Finale is watching a screen legend like Ben Kingsley square off against Hollywood’s most promising actor, Oscar Isaac, without throwing a single punch. Isaac’s Peter Malkin is a man carrying a black spot on his soul, and the presence of Eichmann only exacerbates it. Discussions of loyalty amongst soldiers and whatever may remain of Eichmann’s humanity give the film its own life force.

Ben Kingsley in OPERATION FINALE ©Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Ben Kingsley portrays Adolf Eichmann not as a cartoonish monster but as a genuinely paradoxical family man. We fall victim to Eichmann’s beliefs and his “wisdom” as quickly as Malkin does and the conflict that slowly permeates out of Oscar Isaac every time he stares into the eyes of this mass murderer is quite harrowing. Still, the cat-and-mouse game of Operation Finale fails to measure up to the excitement of the chase in political thrillers such as Ben Affleck’s Argo. The elements are there for this film to have the most thrilling story of the year, but Weitz refrains from straying too far away from the all-too-familiar tropes and iconography of the Holocaust.

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About Patrick Howard

Patrick Howard has been a cinephile since age seven. Alongside 10 years of experience in film analysis and criticism, he is a staunch supporter of all art forms and believes their influence and legacy over human culture is vital. Mr. Howard takes the time to write his own narrative stories when he can.
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