Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Chris Weitz|
|Written by||Matthew Orton|
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Pamela Martin|
|Box office||$17.6 million|
Operation Finale is a 2018 American historical drama film directed by Chris Weitz, from a screenplay by Matthew Orton. The film stars Oscar Isaac (who also produced), Ben Kingsley, Lior Raz, Mélanie Laurent, Nick Kroll, and Haley Lu Richardson, and follows the efforts of Israeli intelligence officers to capture former SS officer Adolf Eichmann in 1960. Several source materials, including Eichmann in My Hands, a memoir by Israeli officer Peter Malkin, provided the basis for the story. Principal photography began in Argentina in October 2017. The film was theatrically released in the United States on August 29, 2018, and received mixed reviews from critics.
On Christmas Eve in 1944, SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann (Kingsley) flees the Eastern Front to Berlin to coordinate the destruction of documents related to Department B4, going into hiding after the war ends.
In Buenos Aires, Sylvia Hermann (Haley Lu Richardson) begins courting Klaus Eichmann (Joe Alwyn). Klaus meets Sylvia and her German-Jewish father, Lothar (Peter Strauss) at home. Klaus speaks of his father's service with the SS but tells Lothar that he had died on the Eastern Front, and that he has been raised by his uncle, Ricardo. Suspicious, Lothar passes this information to West German prosecutor-general Fritz Bauer. Bauer, suspecting Klaus' uncle may in fact be Adolf Eichmann, relays this intelligence to Mossad director Isser Harel (Lior Raz) in Tel Aviv, but Harel is unwilling to devote resources to investigate. At the insistence of Rafi Eitan (Nick Kroll), Harel dispatches field agent Zvi Aharoni (Michael Aronov) to Buenos Aries to begin reconnaissance. At a dinner party celebrating Argentina's 150th anniversary of independence from Spain, Klaus introduces Sylvia to Carlos Fuldner, a former Nazi officer who assisted with SS members escape to Argentina. Fuldner addresses the guests with anti-Semitic rhetoric invoking the Hitlergrüsse, leaving Sylvia visibly disturbed, who promptly leaves.
Working in coordination with Mossad, Sylvia meets the Eichmann family at their home on Garibaldi Street to apologize for her earlier actions, and after an uncomfortable exchange between Klaus and his father, who introduced himself to Sylvia as Herr Klement, departs. Eichmann is subsequently photographed by Aharoni's assistant and intelligence of the exchange between Sylvia and the Eichmann family is relayed back to Israel, including information on how Klaus referred to Eichmann as "Father". Eitan summons Mossad agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Issac) and briefs him on the operation to capture Eichmann and to bring him to Israel, to stand trial for war crimes. Unconvinced of his ability to gather intelligence on his own, Eitan and Harel chastise Malkin for a botched capture that resulted in the death of another Nazi in Austria in 1954 that they believed to be Eichmann. Malkin persuades Harel the operation would be successful if Eichmann were captured and extracted by airplane on board an El Al flight, under the cover of a diplomatic mission during the Argentinian anniversary. Harel agrees to proceed with the operation after medical doctor Hanna (Mélanie Laurent) is convinced to join the team. After briefing on intelligence collected by Aharoni, Harel dispatches the team to Buenos Aires, who arrive on 1 May 1960.
The capture team, compromised of both Mossad and Shin Bet agents, begin surveillance, with Malkin determining Eichmann to be a creature of habit. Harel approves the capture on 7 May, with the team to capture Eichmann while on his way home from work. The team executes the plan on 11 May, with Malkin capturing Eichmann outside his home, and subsequently extracted to a Mossad safe house. In the scuffle, Eichmann loses his glasses. Klaus investigates the commotion after the capture team flees and finds his father's glasses. When approached by Carlos on who knew Eichmann's true identity, Klaus realizes Sylvia or her father may have been involved. As Eichmann's identity is confirmed at the safe house, the Israeli embassy is notified that Lothar Hermann was arrested and the police subsequently identify him as Josef Mengele. In a panic, the Israeli embassy requests a written waiver from Eichmann that he will voluntarily travel to Israel to stand trial. Knowing Hermann's arrest was a ruse to encourage Eichmann's release, Harel orders Aharoni get Eichmann to sign the document to depart Argentina voluntarily. Eichmann, who refuses to interact with Aharoni, also refuses to sign the waiver. In contrast, Eichmann attempts to bond with Malkin during his watch and is able to further persuade Eichmann to sign the agreement requested.
As Klaus and Carlos investigate further, they recover a sketch Eichmann drew of Aharoni's assistant who photographed him, which is relayed to the local police for additional assistance. Pressure grows against the capture team with the airline departure days away, and authorities now searching the nearby neighborhoods for Eichmann. With time running out, and despite Aharoni's disapproval of Malkin's methods, including disclosing his own name to his prisoner and providing comforts, he is successful in breaking Eichmann, who subsequently signs the waiver. At the same time, a Nazi sympathizer working at the safe house provides information on the capture team to the police, and Carlos has Sylvia brutally beaten to reveal where Eichmann is being held. Disturbed at her treatment, Klaus is able to persuade Sylvia into providing information on his father's location. As the safe house is scrubbed and Eichmann is loaded, Eitan volunteers to stay behind due to a lack of room in the car for the trip to the airport. Klaus arrives at the safe house too late, and they make way for the airport. At a security checkpoint, a security guard with the photograph of Aharoni's assistant notifies the police, and the flight is subsequently delayed due to an issue with the flight permit. With Carlos, Klaus and local police en route to stop the flight, Malkin rushes to air traffic control with their flight permit in hand, to ensure the plane takes off without issue. Malkin subsequently remains behind and catches a separate flight home, while the capture team tearfully embraces and congratulates each other on the operation.
In the closing scenes of the film, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announces over radio that Adolf Eichmann has been captured and will stand trial in Israel. Eichmann is visited by his wife Vera while in prison, and Klaus flies the flag of Nazi Germany over their home in protest. Footage of various Nazi war crimes is played during the opening statements by the prosecution. As Malkin leaves the trial, Eitan remarks they will not be remembered through recorded history for who they were, only for what they accomplished. The closing credits recap the outcome of the trial itself, overlaid with live footage and images of testimony from Holocaust survivors. On 1 June, 1962, Adolf Eichmann was executed by hanging, having been found guilty of transporting millions of people to their deaths. He was cremated in an oven built for the occasion, and his ashes spread in the Mediterranean Sea, so that he might have no final place of rest. The trial was televised globally. It was the first time that eyewitness testimony of the Holocaust was seen by the world. Malkin kept the mission secret from his mother until she lay on her deathbed, and Malkin himself died in 2005, survived by his wife and three children.
- Oscar Isaac as Peter Malkin
- Ben Kingsley as Adolf Eichmann
- Lior Raz as Isser Harel
- Mélanie Laurent as Hanna
- Nick Kroll as Rafi Eitan
- Joe Alwyn as Klaus Eichmann
- Haley Lu Richardson as Sylvia Hermann
- Michael Aronov as Zvi Aharoni
- Peter Strauss as Lotar Hermann
- Ohad Knoller as Ephraim Ilani
- Greg Hill as Moshe Tabor
- Torben Liebrecht as Yaakov Gat
- Michael Benjamin Hernandez as Dani Sharlon
- Greta Scacchi as Vera Eichmann
- Allan Corduner as Gideon Hausner
- Tatiana Rodriguez as Annie Werner
- Pêpê Rapazote as Carlos Füldner
- Simon Russell Beale as David Ben-Gurion
On November 16, 2015, it was announced that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer had bought an untitled spec script from Matthew Orton, about the team who found and captured Adolf Eichmann. Brian Kavanaugh-Jones co-produced the film through his production company Automatik. On February 24, 2016, Chris Weitz was reported as being in talks to direct the film.
A deal was struck in March 2017 that saw Oscar Isaac co-produce and star in the film, taking on the role of Peter Malkin. Chris Weitz was set as director. In June, Ben Kingsley was cast as Adolf Eichmann. In August, Lior Raz joined the production, and in September, Mélanie Laurent, Nick Kroll, Joe Alwyn, Michael Aronov, and Haley Lu Richardson were cast, with filming to begin in Argentina on October 1. The cast was rounded out on October 12, and filming was underway in Argentina. Peter Strauss also joined the cast, on November 30.
Operation Finale was originally scheduled to be released on September 14, 2018. However, in July 2018, the film was moved up to August 29, 2018 in the U.S., due to high test screening scores, and to avoid the crowded September field.
In the United States, Operation Finale was projected to gross $8–10 million from 1,810 theaters during its four-day Labor Day opening weekend. The film made $1 million on its first day and $725,891 on its second. It went on to gross $6 million over Friday to Sunday, for a four-day weekend total of $7.8 million, and a six-day total of $9.5 million, finishing fifth at the box office. In its second weekend, the film dropped 50% to $3 million, finishing eighth.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an audience approval rating of 69%, and a critic approval rating of 59% based on 116 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "Operation Finale is well-intentioned, well-acted, and overall entertaining, even if the depth and complexity of the real-life events depicted can get a little lost in their dramatization." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 33 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it an 86% positive score and a 65% "definite recommend".
In his review for The Hollywood Reporter, John DeFore called the film "a lively historical thriller" and wrote, "Though not likely to enter the pantheon as either a true-life caper (Argo's people-smuggling was more exciting; Munich's tale of vengeance more affecting) or as a showcase for face-the-past mind games, the drama benefits from a strong cast and can easily replace 1996's The Man Who Captured Eichmann as the go-to dramatization of this episode."
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