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"OPERATION FINALE"
(2018) (Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramatic Thriller: Israeli agents attempt to find, capture and extract an infamous Nazi officer -- responsible for countless deaths in the Holocaust during WWII -- from Argentina to make him stand trial in Israel.
PLOT:
It's 1960 and Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, has received word that infamous Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann (BEN KINGSLEY) might be living under an alias in Argentina with a wife and young adult son, Klaus (JOE ALWYN), who tells everyone that he's the man's nephew. With intel gathered by a young woman, Sylvia Hermann (HALEY LU RICHARDSON), who befriends Klaus, Mossad officer Isser Harel (LIOR RAZ) puts together a small team to find, capture and extract Eichmann from the country. While most of them would like to see the Nazi dead, their orders are to capture and bring him back to Israel to stand trial for his direct involvement with the countless deaths in the Holocaust during WWII.

The team includes -- but isn't limited to -- Peter Malkin (OSCAR ISAAC) who lost a sister in the Holocaust, and his former girlfriend, physician Hanna Regev (MELANIE LAURENT), who's reluctant to go on another such mission, what with having lost a target in the past from too much anesthesia. Others include Rafi Eitan (NICK KROLL); Ephraim Ilian (OHAD KNOLLER); Moshe Tabor (GREG HILL), the most volatile of the bunch; and Zvi Aharoni (MICHAEL ARONOV) who serves as the interrogator and the only face that Eichmann will see in the safe house they're using.

Working in a tight time window and needing Eichmann to sign a letter authorizing his removal, the team does what they can to make that happen, with Peter secretly breaking protocol by getting to know the man, hoping to get him to sign. At the same time, they must contend with Nazi sympathizers, led by the powerful local official, Carlos Fuldner (PÊPÊ RAPAZOTE), who try to find and rescue Eichmann.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Despite it now being more than seven decades since their despicable heyday, it's sad but not altogether surprising that it isn't hard to find neo-Nazis both here and abroad. Why these cockroaches for human beings haven't been given the Raid treatment and exterminated once and for all is beyond me, and it seems you can spot them pretty much anywhere you look nowadays.

But that wasn't always the case, especially not long after WWII when they scurried into the dark recesses of the world like their insect brethren to avoid having the light shine on them. And that was particularly true in regard to government-backed as well as amateur Nazi hunters who wanted to bring the most notorious of them to trial for the Holocaust atrocities committed during WWII.

Such hunters have been portrayed in straight-up fiction such as "The Boys From Brazil," as well as more true to life accounts such as the 1996 TV movie "The Man Who Captured Eichmann." It told the tale of Mossad agents -- led by Peter Malkin -- who hoped to find and eventually bring to trial former SS Colonel Adolf Eichmann (Robert Duvall) who fled from Germany to Argentina under the assumed name Ricardo Klement.

Malkin's story during that time now gets the big screen update in "Operation Finale," a decent dramatic thriller that actually works best during some of its quieter moments than when it's trying to ratchet up the suspense.

The real life tale obviously had its share of logistical nightmares, related peril and pure chutzpah. Not being intimately familiar with any of that, however, I can't say what's accurate and what's been fictionalized here, although my guess is it's a mixture of both.

This time around, Malkin is portrayed by the always terrific Oscar Isaac. We first see him in a brief prologue set six years before the main event where he and his two associates end up nabbing the wrong man who is then executed by those other two off-screen. When told of their error, one could care less, saying he's sure the man was probably on somebody's Nazi capture list anyway.

I don't know if that happened for real, but if it didn't I'm guessing it's present to introduce a degree of doubt about whether our villain (Ben Kingsley) -- who's been identified by a young woman (Haley Lu Richardson) who's met the man's chip off the old racist block son (Joe Alwyn) -- is the right guy.

As directed by Chris Weitz from a script by Matthew Orton, there's never any real doubt about that. Instead, and once the capture and containment part of the mission has been accomplished (via team members played by the likes of Mélanie Laurent, Nick Kroll and Greg Hill, among others), the doubt that takes its place is whether Eichmann is as guilty as all and history claim.

He says he isn't, and while he no longer looks the part (a decade and a half removed from the Final Solution), we quickly realize he's just playing mind games with the Mossad agents. And in particular Peter who steps in as the unofficial interrogator once conventional efforts have proved fruitless.

It's never satisfactorily explained why getting him to sign an extraction release is really necessary for Israel's El Al airline to agree to fly him out, but that becomes part of the ticking clock against which Peter and his team are working. There's also a local bad guy and Nazi sympathizer (Pêpê Rapazote) who's tracking down his pal's abductors and slowly but surely closing in on them that's supposed to add to the tension.

It does to a small degree, but as stated earlier it's not quite as gripping or thrilling as presumably intended. In fact, it sort of feels like the events in this year's earlier Israeli incursion flick "7 Days in Entebbe" where what's present works but never reaches great cinematic heights (unlike the dramatic thriller "Munich" which did).

Instead, it's the interactions between the protagonist and antagonist that proves more interesting. That said, I would have preferred for those to be taken up a notch or two (or three) in terms of manipulative mind games. That might have resulted in a far better film than what's ultimately delivered.

Good but not great, "Operation Finale" does tell a tale that's important -- both historically and in terms of what's transpiring in today's world -- and ends up rating as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed August 14, 2018 / Posted August 29, 2018


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