Operation Finale (2018, dir Chris Weitz)
I stumbled upon this film one evening on Netflix, and my response was instantaneous. It's the story of the capture of former SS officer Adolf Eichmann by a team of Mossad agents, taking him back to stand trial in Israel. I knew it would be gruelling story, but I wanted to watch the long march to justice told nonetheless.
It's 1960 and almost by accident a young Jewish woman living in Buenos Aires suspects that her new boyfriend is actually a member of the Eichmann family. The latter are living incognito outside the city, and the patriarch she suspects to be Adolf is working at a local factory. Bravely, she visits their home on a pretence and gathers further intelligence that suggests she is right.
Back in Jerusalem, the information makes its way to Mossad, who scramble a team. They arrive in the Argentine capital masquerading as flight crew from El Al, corroborate the intelligence gathered so far and then execute the plan to snatch Eichmann on his way home from work.
The real story of Operation Finale unfolds after the snatch. Not everything goes according to plan on the night itself, and afterwards their troubles deepen when the airline refuses to transport Eichmann onboard one of their planes unless he consents to being rendered to Jerusalem for trial. At this point a battle of wills and persuasion begins to obtain that consent.
I was deeply moved by Operation Finale. The postwar path to justice was long and hard. Former Nazis fled to Latin America in numbers, expertly creating new identities and living lives of apparent respectability under assumed names.
Obtaining further information about their true identities was both dangerous, as the torture of one young woman who assists the Mossad agents shows, and difficult. But the fight went on and immense courage was shown by those who devoted themselves to the task of finding and bringing to justice some of the most evil men in history.
The acting was superb. I can only imagine the psychological complexity required for actor Ben Kingsley to assume the role of Eichmann. He was part monster, part human and it was a subtle performance that also surprised me. He displayed no shame or remorse, and the importance of taking Eichmann to Israel for trial was never lost in any kind of sympathy on the part of the viewer.
I cannot recommend Operation Finale highly enough. The supporting roles were strong and well delivered. The plot was carefully constructed to have just the right mix of action and introspection. One of the agents had lost a sister to the Nazis, shot in a forest with her three young children, and this was personalised via flashback scenes.
There was much that was positive. Primarily the search for justice, the right kind that involves a trial back in Jerusalem, but also in terms of personal development from the central agent, whose personal ending gave an emotional uplift to the conclusion. It was an amazing story and it was brought to screen in an incredibly moving and positive way. Operation Finale will stay with me for a long time. And it deserves to.
I'll be back in the New Year. Have a wonderful festive season. In the meantime, the comments section is open.
If you fancy something different, you might like to take a chance on my review of The Steel Remains by Richard K Morgan here.