MGM's release of Operation Finale on a Wednesday in late August points to some glaring issues in the film. Here is my full review of the movie.
Ben Kingsley return to the Holocaust/WWII era is a real blessing. Though in his mid 70's the Academy Award Winner commands every scene he is in and getting to play such an infamous figure he is a highlight of the movie. Oscar Isaac is a quality actor and showcases some of his powerful acting skills. I wish we saw a bit more of his character's inner struggle earlier on though. Isaac as Peter Malkin has been hunting Eichmann for nearly a decade and is famous for a major mishap on one of those missions. This is briefly shown, but then it's followed by a weak Krav Maga sequence where he is joking with the Mossad's lead interrogator. You never get a moment to relish in the disappointment in a failed mission to capture one of the remaining leaders of the holocaust. Outside of Josef Mengale, Eichmann was the only other figure of merit that Israel needed to force the truth of the holocaust to the world. Set in the 1960's there were still many countries, governments, and people that denied the extent of the Nazi attempted geneocide. Eichmann's capture and trial would go a long way in proving the harsh truths of the holocaust and allow the survivors some solace into their horrors. To treat this material with such a lackluster truth seemed odd.
The film's cast as a whole is pretty talented, but confusing pacing of the film doesn't allow any real sense of urgency. We are given scenes of humor over actual important moments. Writer Matthew Orton gives us a script that seems a bit to weak in it's overall emotion needed to understand how important and vital this operation truly was to Israel. We are given one scene where actor Lior Raz, as Mossad head Isser Harel, appears that he doesn't care to look into info about Eichmann being in Argentina. The Mossad had been following the cold trail for Eichmann all over and this seemed slightly false in it's lack of respect to the Mossad unearthing vital information. Lior also seemed to be the only actor taking the subject matter seriously. All other actors have there moments of fun in the movie that didn't really need a sense of levity. Director Chris Weitz is a veteran in the industry but has never tackled any material of this nature and it comes across. The pacing never leans towards a film that should have been more suspenseful rather than everything just falling into place. There are sequences where things should have been made into bigger issues and no consequence occurred. Also the only sequence where Argentinian police almost come across the Israeli hideout and they don't even enter the house. Weitz and Orton's story had some many opportunities to take us down a scary drama filled moment but rather we see Oscar Isaac character feed Eichmann some crackers.
The script was largely based on Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) biography and yet we barely given any sequences of his home life. He's almost just another member of the group and we never connect with him emotionally. So when we get to the tougher scenes about his sister's murder it screams weak. I ask if this film had been in the hands of a more proven director would it have been better. Take Steven Spielberg's work on Munich. That film isn't about Eichmann at all, but it shares similar ties to the Mossad trying to right a terrible wrong. The pacing and suspense in that film seem so much stronger for these agents trying to hunt down the Black September members. They fail and even die along the way and their struggle effect there families. They were almost shunned by the government and if they continued to fail there story would have been hidden from it's overall truth. Spielberg has his own moments of humor in that film, in particular a wonderful moment with Eric Bana and a Palestinian operative that accidently is hidden in the some hideout. This Israel/Palestine issue was perfectly handled by a veteran director. Weitz isn't a bad director but this material screamed for someone with more history to era. I mean imagine if this was a Spielberg film. A re-teaming of Steven with his Schindler's list "books man" Kinglsey and now Ben plays the ultimate book man of the Nazis. This year is the 25th anniversary of Schindler's List and Operation Finale deserve no mention in the same breath as that tremendous movie. The film certainly wouldn't be a freaking August release on a random Wednesday!
That is a huge sign that this film didn't impress someone at MGM. A film with Ben Kingsley playing one of history's most infamous villains. A stellar cast around Kingsley and a young writer that has been highly touted. And yet this film was pushed to a midyear release on a Wed before 3 films open on Friday (one of which may have an Oscar contender in THE WIFE). The subject and story at least screams a film that deserved a post Labor Day release! Seeing this release date made me immediately question what was wrong with this film. Well the pacing, lack of suspense or drama and a terrible end title sequence! One of the greatest trials in modern history and we get one small picture and a short quote. I figured we'd be at least seeing a little of the famous trial that has been used to prove the realities of the holocaust. Also a big issue was how El Al Airlines supposedly wouldn't help the Mossad in apprehending Eichmann without a signature. The airlines is government owned and in reality had one of it's original stewardess living in Buenos Aires. If anything the airlines was fully apart of the mission with the Mossad. She was apart of the flights of the Mossad agents into Argentina and on the flight that took Eichmann to Israel. How did this terrible falsehood make it into this movie? I recommend reading the many books on this subject rather than wasting your money on this film. MGM didn't give a damn about it so neither should you.
Directed by Chris Weitz