“Operation Finale” hit theaters this week and I had the privilege of catching an advanced screening. Here are my thoughts.
I came in with high hopes for MGM’s “Operation Finale,” starring Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, and Nick Kroll. I’ve seen pretty much every blockbuster war movie out there (with the exception of “Lone Survivor,” I’ve read the book twice but don’t have the stomach for the film). And I was closely familiar with the story of Adolf Eichmann’s capture. I went in ready to scour the film for factual accuracy, a gripping plot line, and maybe a few shootout scenes.
What I found instead was one of the greatest psychological thrillers in modern wartime film.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked “13 Hours,” “Fury,” and “American Sniper,” for the dense action. But you can only see so many dead bad guys before your eyes start to glaze over. Telling the story of a manhunt for one of the Holocaust’s most deadly masterminds without using tons of blood and guts requires tact, subtlety, and psychological foreknowledge. And director Chris Weitz seems to have the three in spades.
“Operation Finale” is great because it allows viewers to make up their minds. You aren’t hit over the head with how evil Adolf Eichmann was. Rational people have already made up their minds that high ranking Nazis are evil, sorry excuses for human beings. But Weitz reminds his audience that Eichmann was still just that: a human being.
By no means is “Operation Finale,” an apology for Nazism. Quite the opposite. It illuminates the question that has plagued humanity for decades: just how did the Holocaust come to be? Who actually listened to Hitler’s orders and decided it would be logical, even beneficial, to carry them out? And Weitz’s answer is encapsulated in Adolf Eichmann.
There’s been a decent amount of outrage and buzz over how Eichmann was portrayed here because he seems ‘too human.’ But I submit that Ben Kingsley does this on purpose. He wanted to portray the intricacies of human emotion (or detachment from it), fear, vengeance, and the myriad other complicated sensations that unites us as a species. Isaac and Kingsley allow us a peek through the lens of one of the most harrowing moral questions of our time: what would you do if you were trapped in a house with the man who slaughtered millions? One of them being your sister?
Do you crack, and succumb to the same evil he did? Or do you let justice, and a civilized western judicial system do the talking?
If you like moral conundrums, complex interrogation scenes, and sweeping Argentine landscapes, go see “Operation Finale.” The movie is so good, it’s simply a bonus that it’s a true story.
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