Friday Film Review - “Operation Finale”

Sep 14, 2018

When a film is based on a true story with a well-known successful ending it’s a challenge to take an audience on a tension-filled journey but “Operation Finale” completes that mission.

I developed an avid interest in WWII history while living in Germany I’ve visited numerous monuments, museums and concentration camps trying to get my head and heart around the reality of what happened during those times.

It’s one thing to know the facts another to have sympathy for victims, but incomprehensible to relate to the lasting horror and heartbreak of survivors.

Adolf Eichman, the architect of the final solution, was hiding in plain sight in Argentina, when he was identified by a local and his daughter. In 1960, a Mossad team performed an extraction to bring Eichman to trial in Israel. “Operation Finale” is based loosely on the true story.

I say “loosely” because a stickler for details would spot errors and distortions. They took dramatic license to compact the timeline, enhance the drama and create empathy for the characters but the technique works for me.

Notable errors include changing the sex of the Mossad doctor from male to female providing a romantic interest for the main character. They downplayed the fact it took two years and much persistence on the part of Lothar Hermann and daughter Sylvia to convince Mossad they had identified the real Eichman. Ben Kingsley’s excellent performance, quite possibly exaggerated Eichman’s sense of humor and I was distracted by the 74-year-old actor portraying a 54-year-old Nazi, with or without plastic surgery.

The impact of seeing the dates “1960” and “61” emblazoned on the screen startled me. I did the math this wasn’t ancient history it happened during my lifetime! I was four-years-old but those young Mossad members were teens during the war survivors who’d personally experienced tragic loss.

Assassination would have been the quickest, easiest and maybe preferred method for this team yet they risked their lives to extract Eichman and bring him to trial. A film quote from the Israeli Prime Minister explains why. “For the first time in our history, we will judge our executioner. For the sake of the world do not fail.”

My friend, who’d spent her career in Germany, said she was most impacted when Eichman’s son Klaus, who was involved in a semi-underground Nazi party in Argentina reacted to his father’s capture by climbing to the roof of their home to brazenly display the Nazi flag. 1960, the Nazi party and attitude was alive, well and itching to rise to power again.

Details like the one I just described, were no doubt added for dramatic value as were many other powerful scenes passing by in an instant but with lasting impact.

“Operation Finale” is rated PG-13 and runs two hours and three thrilling minutes. This is Barbara Bretz with your Friday Film Review sponsored by the Park City Film Series.