You’d think the true story of a team of Israeli agents looking to capture one of the Nazi masterminds behind the annihilation of millions of Jews during World War II would make for an intense, compelling film. Plus, the cast is lead by two outstanding actors – Oscar Isaac and Sir Ben Kingsley.
But, it turns out there’s a reason why MGM decided to release “Operation Finale” at the end of August. This movie is emotionally flat.
It’s 1960, some 15 years after the end of the war. Mossad agents (including Peter Malkin, played by Isaac), receive a tip that Adolf Eichmann, one of Hitler’s lieutenants and the man called “Architect of the Final Solution” is alive (Hitler and the other top Nazi officers killed themselves at the end of the war to escape capture and prosecution).
The man believed to be Eichmann (played by Kingsley) is thought to be living in Argentina with his family under an alias. The goal of Malkin and his team is to prove this man is Eichmann and then smuggle him out of Buenos Aries to Israel, to stand trial for his war crimes.
One thing you notice early on is the odd score from veteran composer Alexandre Desplat (who won an Oscar in March for “The Shape of Water”). It’s as if Desplat composed music for a completely different film and it was placed into this one. The upbeat, peppy musical selections don’t fit with the overall serious tone of this story.
The debut script by Matthew Orton is basic and slightly too convenient. Director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”) attempts to make his version of “Argo” (also about an undercover operation involving people trying to escape from a dangerous foreign location). But “Operation Finale” lacks all the elements of suspense and danger that “Argo” had in abundance.
There are plenty of scenes in “Operation Finale” that I’m sure looked great on paper. But it’s as if Weitz was so worried about not tampering with the subject matter that he chose to play things out in a very straightforward manner. To make a historically significant movie about a historically significant event, you’ve got to take some risks. This may be the least risky film of 2018.
Isaac and Kingsley play dynamic figures. It’s unfortunate their scenes – together and apart – just don’t rise to the level of authenticity and gravity that this subject matter demanded.
“Operation Finale” is certainly watchable, but its one-note execution will leave you yearning for something much more powerful.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Operation Finale” gets a C-.
Running Time: 122 min.