I enjoyed this movie a lot, but it was not as good as I had hoped it would be. I thought it suffered in comparison to two movies, “Silence of the Lambs” and “Argo”. As I watched “Operation Finale” , I could not help bringing up thoughts of these two excellent movies, each of which had points of reference in “Operation Finale”. If I hadn’t seen these two movies, I would have enjoyed “Operation Finale” a lot more on its own. It is a very thought-provoking film, and features an excellent performance by Ben Kingsley. It is well worth seeing.
The strongest performance in “Operation Finale” was Ben Kingsley as Adolph Eichmann, a Nazi war criminal who was Hitler’s architect of the “Final Solution”. Eichmann was a classic villain if there ever was one, and Kingsley plays it to the hilt without overdoing it. The high point of the movie was Kingsley’s dialog with Peter Malkin, one of the Israeli agents involved in the kidnapping of Eichmann, as Malkin struggles to convince Eichmann to sign a document saying he was voluntarily returning to Argentina. It seems Eichmann has some Hannibal Lecter-like skills in the manipulation of his captors, and Kingsley is very good at showing the humanity of Eichmann simultaneously with his truly evil nature. If I hadn’t seen “Silence of the Lambs” I would have appreciated it much more. I was constantly comparing Adolph Eichmann with Hannibal Lecter, and in terms of both true evil and manipulative skills, Kingsley’s portrayal of Eichmann comes up very close, but a little bit short. This is not a knock on Kingsley, however who turned in a riveting performance.
The other movie I wanted to compare “Operation Finale” to was “Argo”, in which a team of United States’ agents successfully smuggled a group of Americans out of Iran in the middle of the Iranian hostage crisis. “Argo” and “Operation Finale” were both based on real events, and both undoubtedly took a few small liberties with the historical facts to create cinematic tension, but I thought Argo was the better “thriller”, while “Operation Finale was the better psychological study and a lot more cerebral. There were some interesting ethical issues in the Eichmann kidnapping, and the inner turmoil of the Israeli agents who had to fight off the urge to kill Eichmann themselves was well presented in this movie.
I had a little difficulty in the opening scene in which Peter Malkin, the Israeli agent who is the main focus of this story kills the wrong person in his search to bring Nazis to justice. I honestly wasn’t clear what was happening in this scene and who the characters were. For me, that started the film off on the wrong foot, but once Ben Kingsley filled the screen, that first scene was quickly forgiven, and a very good, but not great, movie ensued.