In the film Operation Finale from director Chris Weitz, we explore the planning and execution of the Mossad’s attempt to capture a notorious war criminal and bring him to trial.
Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) stayed in the shadows for years. Some believed that the architect of some of the most sinister actions in the history of the Nazis had killed himself as so many had. One day, through an innocent slip of the tongue, Eichmann is discovered in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The Israeli people long for justice, so the Mossad (Israel’s national intelligence agency) sends a team to Argentina to bring Eichmann back and have him stand trial for his crimes against the Jewish people. Unlike in some previous efforts to capture war criminals, this team cannot take out their personal aggressions on the man responsible for the deaths of so many members of their families. They need to bring him back to quench the entire country’s thirst for justice and shine a light on the atrocities that he oversaw.
The team sent in includes Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), an operative with a history that is checkered at best. Malkin doesn’t have the best track record of bringing targets back alive, but after seeing his passion for the mission and understanding of the importance of the trial, the Mossad knows they have the right man for the job.
Can the team confirm Eichmann’s identity and extract him from Argentina? Israel’s prime minister makes it abundantly clear to this team: “If you succeed, for the first time in our history, we will judge our executioner. And we will warn off any who wishes to follow his example. If you fail, he escapes justice, perhaps forever. I beg you, do not fail.”
What an amazing group of actors — from Isaac and Kingsley in our lead roles to the likes of Mélanie Laurent, Nick Kroll, Lior Raz, Haley Lu Richardson and countless others — each playing their part. This film is successful in telling this true story because of the performances of that talented cast. As a team, they all take on their roles, no matter the size of the part, to create an incredibly unified vision that brings the story to the screen.
This mission is filled with tension, quietly building throughout. As viewers, we are shocked witnesses to the small group of Argentinians who sport a perverse enthusiasm for an anti-Semitic agenda and proceed to grip our seats as the film progresses. Every scene hinges on the one before, making us saddened one moment with hearts overflowing the next. The tone and delivery are great here, and it doesn’t need to be a full-blown action film to grab our attention.
This is a story that needed to be told, and it is done here with reverence and class by all those involved. It makes for a solid, though somber, viewing. I found myself entranced by the talent onscreen and acutely aware of the historical significance of the moment. And with a film of this magnitude, that is all you can ask. Operation Finale closes a chapter while opening the book for the future of an entire people.