The Boys from Brazil, Munich, The Debt and Argo all come to mind at various points during Operation Finale, a mish-mashed yet tame addition to the Nazi-hunting subgenre.
Directed by Chris Weitz (About A Boy), the film dramatizes Mossad’s 1955-1961 efforts to track down German war criminals who slipped through authorities’ fingers, and features Ben Kingsley again looking almost exactly like the real-life person he’s portraying, this time Holocaust architect Adolph Eichmann.
Hiding out in Argentina under a South American alias, Eichmann is discovered through a series of convenient events involving his son Klaus (Joe Alwyn, The Sense of an Ending) getting chummy with Sylvia Hermann (Haley Lu Richardson, Columbus) and her blind Israeli-contact father Lothar (Peter Strauss, Rich Man, Poor Man) — the first of the film’s many underdeveloped characters who merely move the plot forward.
The lone figure other than the elder Eichmann who’s more than a cog in the machine is Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), a man driven by the death of his sister and her children at the hands of Nazis — depicted through effective flashbacks and other haunting manifestations of Peter’s grief — and the Allies’ inability to bring Hitler and his top men to justice due to their suicides.
As viewers would hope from the lead casting, Operation Finale provides two intense face-offs between Isaac and Kingsley once Eichmann is in Israeli custody and held captive an Argentinian safe house, with each actor granted a turn at wielding power over the other.
Still, the film is very much an ensemble work, and while next to nothing is known about the supporting players trying to get Eichmann out of the country and the faction attempting to locate their kidnapped comrade, Mélanie Laurent nonetheless makes a decent impression as Peter’s ex-flame Hanna and comedian Nick Kroll delivers another solid dramatic turn as his colleague Rafi Eitan.
Part of the film’s stagnant nature may stem from the evident rust of Weitz’s return behind the camera, his first feature effort since 2011’s immigration/L.A. gang drama A Better Life (though he did co-write Rogue One). Also likely at fault is the debut screenplay by Matthew Orton, which moves well enough but doesn’t encourage much enthusiasm for his future output.
Grade: C-plus. Rated PG-13. Now playing at Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark