Blu-ray: Operation Finale

STUDIO: Universal/MGM | DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz | CAST: Oscar Isaac, Ben Kingsley, Mélanie Laurent, Lior Roz, Nick Kroll, Joe Alwyn, Greta Scacchi
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 4, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $19.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo $22.99
BONUSES: director’s commentary, featurette
SPECS: PG-13 | 123 min. | Drama thriller | 1.85:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie  | Audio  | Video | Overall

The Silence of the Lambs
meets Inglorious Basterds with a little Munich thrown in for good measure, Operation Finale offers an uneven but sometimes gripping true account of the 1960 South American capture of Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Nazi extermination of the Jews, or “The Final Solution.”

Oscar Isaac (Annihilation) plays Peter Malkin, the German-born Israeli agent whose job is to take part in a dangerous kidnapping of Eichmann (Ben Kingsley, Hugo), who has lived relatively quietly in post-war Buenos Aries. The cat-and-mouse game features intense interplay between the agent and the Nazi after his apprehension that often mirrors the back-and-forth between Jodie Foster’s FBI operative Clarisse Starling and sophisticated cannibal Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

Oscar Isaac and Nick Kroll in Operation Finale

Along with the energized dynamic here of the Kingsley-Isaac confrontational scenes, we also get side stories about a burgeoning romance between Eichmann’s Nazi-sympathizing son (Joe Alwyn, Boy Erased) and a Jewish girl (Haley Lu Richardson, The Edge of Seventeen) along with the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of Israel’s Mossad agents, including Malkin’s ex-lover (Mélanie Laurent, Beginners), with whom he now has to work.

These elements threaten to overwhelm director Chris Weitz (About a Boy), who at times tries his darnedest to out-Spielberg Spielberg, but just can’t pull it off.  His way with certain actors isn’t always spot-on—it is with the always charismatic Kingsley, but not so much with the miscast Isaac—and  his staging of complicated action scenes and dramatic moments don’t work consistently, either. Still, there is some firepower inherent in the subject matter which, particularly during a Nazi rally sequence, mirrors the rise of anti-Semitism in today’s America, giving it a troubled, historic backdrop. And a final act race against the clock leading to an airstrip chase has its share of thrills even as obvious allusions to Casablanca abound.

Operation Finale took in a disappointing $17 million on a reported $25 million budget, but it’s likely to draw strong support in ancillary markets, especially with older audiences and military enthusiasts underserved by theatrical releases to their liking. On the plus side, it will make younger audiences aware of this amazing story and perhaps even seek out previous accounts of it such as the 1996 telefilm The Man Who Captured Eichmann with Robert Duvall as the ghoul in hiding and Arliss Howard as the steely spy who brought him in to face his crimes in front of an Israeli court.

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.