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April 19, 2019

Operation Finale (2018) --- "After World War II, The Mission For Justice Began."

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Hello, Movie Buffs!
Directed by Chris Weitz (ABOUT A BOY) and written by debut writer Matthew Orton, Operation Finale (2018) is a historical thriller based on the true story of how a group of Israeli secret agents carefully planned extraction of one of the most wanted SS officers hiding in Argentina. It’s been 15 years since the end of WW2 and after receiving intelligence that Adolf Eichmann - the man who masterminded the "Final Solution" - is hiding in Argentina, a team of top-secret Israeli agents travels there to arrest him so that he may stand trial for the death of 6 million Jews. However, the extraction proves to be more complicated than they first anticipated and agent Peter Malkin soon finds himself playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with Eichmann. Will the team succeed in their mission? Or will Peter fall to the lies and manipulations of Eichmann?

Historical dramas, in general, are known for carrying depth and weight that sometimes seem to be beyond belief. You can also say that Holocaust films have been overdone. However, director Weitz hones in on the personal aspects of loss, anger, and the need for justice that gives Operation Finale (2019) a sense of depth that is rarely seen in historical films.
Operation Finale is a painstaking recreation that details the difficulty and importance of Eichmann’s capture and trial, which was the first time that eyewitnesses were asked to tell their stories of the Holocaust. Trial itself last 8-months in what would later be called the trial of the century in 1961. First-time screenplay writer, Matthew Orton takes inspiration from the autobiographical "In My Hands" by Peter Malkin and as a result, he has written a dramatic and respectful story that holds your attention from beginning to end. Now  some might say that the story is a cliché depiction of a psychopathic killer, however, the historical truth about Eichmann as a steely bureaucratic who was one of the masterminds behind the extermination of over 6 million Jews without feeling so much as a sliver of guilt or remorse for his actions, proves to be much more sinister than one might imagine. Despite not having any action sequences the film manages to be nerve-wracking and thrilling, almost like a real-life Mission: Impossible without all the crazy action and over-the-top villain. Almost anything that could go wrong with their mission was thrown at them and when it seemed like they wouldn’t succeed it was only through courage, determination, and favor that allowed for them to succeed.
Writer Orton’s screenplay benefits greatly from an ensemble cast who give solid performances, both big and small, that play a big part to the film overall. The film, and subsequently the story, excel the most when the main focus is placed on the complex characters of Ben Kingsley (Ender’s Game) and Oscar Isaac (Triple Frontier). Ben Kingsley is notably restrained in his performances as Adolph Eichmann, and it is his subdued performance that aligns perfectly with the “ordinary” man that we hear about in history. Oscar Isaac as Mossad agent Peter Malkin adds an element of psychology to his “good cop” approach in getting Eichmann to crack. The contrast between Kingsley and Isaac’s characters is one of brutality vs. compassion and proves to be the most dynamic part of the film. The unanticipated empathy that Malkin develops for Eichmann, despite having lost so much because of Eichmann and others like him, was interesting and commendable. For years Malkin has only ever thought of Eichmann as the monster from Hell but by the end, he realizes that while he did horrible atrocities, Eichmann is still very much a man. A man who will pay for the crimes he committed, despite his claims of having no knowledge of what was actually done. The rest of the supporting cast - Haley Lu Richardson, Peter Strauss, Joe Alwyn, Melanie Laurent, Michael Aranov, Lior Raz, Nick Kroll, Simon Russell Beale, and Greta Scacchi - are great and believable in their respective roles, both big and small.
The music score by Alexandre Desplat is unique and intriguing. It helps bring the cast and story together by asking one recurring question throughout the entire film, “Who did you lose?” Throughout the film, we learn that almost every character has lost someone they care about because of WW2. Some were fortunate to have only lost a few people, some are all that’s left of their family, and while others may not have lost someone they did have subject themselves to converting their religion in order to hide in plain sight. It is their loss, no matter which forms it takes, that is the driving force behind the team's tenacity and dedication to the mission, and gives an average citizen the courage to speak up despite the danger that could befall them. I know that some people might assume that the music score is such an insignificant element but in this film is plays a vital role in combining the story with the performances.

Overall, Operation Finale (2018) is a dramatic, respectful, and painstaking recreation that details the difficulty and importance behind a group of Israeli secret agents’ carefully planned extraction of one of the most wanted SS officers hiding in Argentina. The story takes inspiration from the autobiographical "In My Hands" by Peter Malkin and while it is not action-packed, it is nonetheless nerve-wracking and thrilling, because almost anything could go wrong and they would pay for it with their lives. The cast performances were great, especially the contrast between Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac’s characters, and the music score further blends the story and performances together. I strongly recommend this film to anyone interested in seeing amazing performances and dramatic stories that don’t need action-sequences to carry it through.

"My job was simple: Save the country I loved from being destroyed. Is your job any different?"
- Adolph Eichmann

Final Vote --- 9 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar
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The Imitation Game (2014)
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Munich (2005)
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Selma (2014)
Unbroken (2014)
Unbroken 2 (2018)
United 93 (2006)
War Horse (2011)

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