‘Operation Finale’ Film Review: Strong Ensemble Infuses Passion Into Conventional Retelling of Adolf Eichmann’s Capture

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Ben Kingsley has embodied Jewish heroes as iconic as Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal (“Murderers Among Us”), Anne Frank’s father Otto (“Anne Frank: The Whole Story”), and businessman Itzhak Stern (“Schindler’s List”). In “Operation Finale,” he adopts another perspective altogether, portraying the ultimate villain in Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann.

The innately intense Kingsley isn’t an ideal match for the mild-mannered murderer who inspired philosopher Hannah Arendt to coin the phrase “the banality of evil.” But like the rest of the cast, he holds our attention even when the movie buckles under the burden of earnest intentions.

Once you get past the jarring collection of mismatched accents, it’s a pleasure to be in the company of pros like Oscar Isaac, Mélanie Laurent (“Beginners”), Nick Kroll, and Michael Aronov (“The Americans”). But as Mossad agents, their characters find little pleasure in the task designed by their intimidating boss (Lior Raz) and approved by no less than Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion (Simon Russell Beale, “The Death of Stalin”): to secretly travel from Tel Aviv to Buenos Aires, risking their own lives in order to capture the elusive Eichmann.

Watch Video: Oscar Isaac Is a Mossad Spy in First Trailer for ‘Operation Finale’

The script’s blunt approach is indicated early on, when Argentine teen Sylvia (Haley Lu Richardson, “Support the Girls”) meets her new boyfriend at a showing of the 1959 racial drama “Imitation of Life.” Sure, it’s a nice way for director Chris Weitz (“A Better Life”) to give a shout-out to his mother, Susan Kohner, one of the film’s stars. But it’s an awfully obvious metaphor for the secretly-Jewish-passing-as-Catholic Sylvia, who proudly brings home the handsome, ultra-Aryan Klaus Eichmann (Joe Alwyn, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”).

Sylvia’s father (Peter Strauss) is stunned to realize he’s got a Nazi heir casually eating dinner at his house and immediately alerts Israeli authorities. While Klaus courts Sylvia by bringing her to terrifying Nazi rallies, the Mossad team begins devising a proposal to bring the elder Eichmann to justice.

The plan is a supremely dangerous one: Peter (Isaac), Rafi (Kroll), Isser (Raz), and Hanna (Laurent) are among the undercover agents who fly to Buenos Aires in hopes of airlifting Eichmann out. But first they have to kidnap him without the notice of his loyal wife (an underused Greta Scacchi) or Fascist henchman (a chilling Pêpê Rapazote, “Narcos”). Then they need to hold him at a hidden safe house that could be discovered at any moment by anti-Semitic local leaders. Worse still, the plane on which they hope to smuggle him out can’t take off unless Eichmann signs a document in which he freely agrees to be tried in Israel.

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That unlikely requirement should be enough to create tension on its own, and Weitz does build a sense of palpable panic around these impossibly high stakes. Moreover, because the movie primarily takes place in 1960, everyone on the Israeli team has been directly impacted by the Holocaust. Eichmann was a chief organizer of the Final Solution, responsible for sending millions of Jews — including Peter’s sister and her children — to their deaths.

That being the case, it strains credulity when we’re asked to believe that a personally haunted, professionally brilliant spy like Peter could be so easily drawn in by his crafty prisoner. First-time screenwriter Matthew Orton often seems to be going more for broad-stroke dramatics than gripping authenticity, given that he’s crafted a fairly generic biopic out of what was truly one of the most remarkable missions in modern history.

But it’s evident that he and Weitz believe passionately in their project, as does this wide range of first-rate actors. Every one of the supporting players makes an impact in his or her brief scenes, with standouts including the luminous Laurent and an effectively subdued Kroll, although both could have used more to do.

Watch Video: James Corden Stops London Traffic With Ben Kingsley for ‘Mary Poppins’ Crosswalk Musical

Indeed, the movie really belongs to the central pair, to such a degree that it often feels like a two-hander. Kingsley and Isaac are unusually charismatic actors, which elevates each of their cat-and-mouse scenes. Though it’s off-putting to watch Kingsley humanize a man who dedicated himself to monstrous acts, it was Eichmann’s apparent ordinariness that became his second legacy: the banality that Arendt so famously described after watching him defend himself as a cog in larger machinery.

Both Weitz and Orton are keenly aware of the parallels between Eichmann’s era and our own, and though they don’t hit them too hard, their intent is powerfully clear. This urgency (aptly accentuated by Alexandre Desplat’s score), and the sincere commitment of all involved, gives the movie a greater weight than its labored pacing and bland visuals otherwise might.

It’s a shame the filmmakers felt constrained by the import of their subject matter, rather than inspired to take some artistic risks. But even when the storytelling falters, the story itself — not merely extraordinary, but eternally relevant — remains paramount.



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Melanie Laurent Joins Michael Bay’s ‘6 Underground’ for Netflix

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Elle Fanning, Ben Foster Drama ‘Galveston’ Acquired by RLJE Films

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RLJE Films has acquired the U.S. rights to Melanie Laurent’s “Galveston,” starring Elle Fanning and Ben Foster, the distributor announced Thursday.

The film premiered at this year’s SXSW Film Festival and will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

“Galveston” is based on the novel of the same name by “True Detective” author Nic Pizzolatto, and was written by Jim Hammett and directed by Laurent. It also stars Lili Reinhart and Beau Bridges. Tyler Davidson produced the drama with his company Low Spark Films.

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In the film, Roy (Foster) is a criminal enforcer and mob hitman when he becomes involved in a double-cross scheme. He discovers Rocky (Fanning) after the crime and reluctantly takes her with him on his escape. They try to find sanctuary in Galveston, hiding from his boss and their pasts.

“Elle Fanning and Ben Foster deliver powerful performances in this provoking drama,” said Mark Ward, chief acquisitions officer for RLJE Films.  “Their chemistry captures audiences on a gripping, emotional ride.  We are so proud to bring this film to the big screen.”

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“Galveston” was executive produced by Jean Doumanian, Patrick Daly, Kevin Flanigan, Dexter Braff and Sean Thomas O’Brien. Ward and Jess De Leo from RLJE negotiated the deal with Endeavor Content and Cinetic.

RLJE Films plans to release “Galveston” this fall.

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Oscar Isaac Is a Mossad Spy in First Trailer for ‘Operation Finale’ (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

MGM has released the first trailer for “Operation Finale,” a film about the true story about the 1960 mission to capture Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann.

In the trailer, we see Ben Kingsley as Eichmann, the man who came up with the transportation logistics that brought millions of Jews to the concentration camps.

“My job was simple,” says Eichmann. “Save the country I loved from being destroyed.”

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Oscar Isaac stars as a Mossad spy Peter Malkin, while Melanie Laurent, Haley Lu Richardson, Joe Alwyn, Nick Kroll and Lior Raz also star in the historical drama that was directed by Chris Weitz and written by Matthew Orton.

Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Fred Berger produce under their Automatik banner alongside Isaac and Inspire Entertainment’s Jason Spire. Matt Charman and Ron Schmidt executive produced.

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“If you fail,” Malkin is told, “he escapes justice, perhaps forever. I beg you –do not fail.”

“Operation Finale” hits theaters on September 14.

Watch the trailer above.

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Mélanie Laurent, Ben Foster, and Elle Fanning on the dark allure of Galveston

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Best known for her roles in Inglourious Basterds and the French drama Don’t Worry, I’m Fine, Mélanie Laurent is also a talented director, with three feature films under her belt. Her next film, Galveston, based on the 2010 book of the same name, stars Ben Foster as a hitman who rescues a young sex worker, played by…

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Ben Foster & Elle Fanning Are On-The-Lam In ‘Galveston’ – SXSW

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The French have a long running history of great film noir with such auteurs as Jean-Pierre Melville, so it becomes all the more intriguing to hear that actress/director Melanie Laurent is putting her Gallic spin on the genre with the feature adaptation of Nic Pizzolatto’s novel GalvestonThe pic marks her first English-language speaking directing debut after such titles as Breathe and Plonger.
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UniFrance Rendez-Vous: Studiocanal Rolls Out ‘Return of the Hero,’ with Jean Dujardin and Melanie Laurent, and ‘Jealous,’  with Karin Viard (EXCLUSIVE)

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PARIS — European film-TV powerhouse Studiocanal has rolled out robust sales on Laurent Tirard’s anticipated “Return of the Hero,” starring Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) and nominee Melanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”), one of the most anticipated of market debuts at this week’s UniFrance Rendez-Vous in Paris. Also clinching international deals on “Jealous,” uniting […]

Toronto Film Review: ‘Plonger’

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Cohen Media Lands NA Rights On Christian Carion’s ‘My Son’

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Film Review: ‘Tomorrow’ (Demain)

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Every Quentin Tarantino Movie Ranked From ‘Reservoir Dogs’ to ‘Hateful Eight’ (Photos)

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TheWrap movie critic Inkoo Kang reassesses the director Quentin Tarantino’s 23-year career, from “Reservoir Dogs” to “The Hateful Eight”

8. “Death Proof”(2007)

Despite some truly audacious stunt work by Zoe Bell on the hood of a careening Dodge Challenger, Tarantino’s homage to grindhouse fails to transcend that leering genre. If anything, “Death Proof” unintentionally makes the case for exploitation flicks’ niche appeal with its cardboard characters and lurid set pieces.

 

7. “Reservoir Dogs” (1992)

Tarantino’s directorial debut inaugurates the self-assured vision of a filmmaker who knows exactly what kind of movies he wants to make. Vicious and nihilistic, the crime thriller is also largely an exercise in style despite fantastic performances by Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, and Michael Madsen.

6. “Kill Bill, Vols. 1 & 2” (2003-04)

Tarantino’s movies are never short of watchable, but this two-part, four-hour pastiche epic is the director at his second most fanboyish (after “Death Proof”). Tarantino himself has said of the Uma Thurman vehicle that it’s “not about real life, it’s just about other movies” — and it shows. As a primer on Tarantino’s favorite movies, it’s enjoyable enough. As a standalone film, it fails to register beyond the over-the-top fight scenes.

5. “The Hateful Eight” (2015)

Thinly drawn characters and a three-hour-plus running time make this Western an inessential and interminable chamber drama. After the peaks of “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” it’s disappointing to see Tarantino return to pointlessly bloody form, especially given the film’s promisingly fertile post-Civil War setting.

4. “Pulp Fiction”(1994)

Arguably the most important movie of the ’90s, this smirking Palme d’Or winner now feels slightly rambling and repetitive. Still, its instantly recognizable lines, characters, and scenes must be acknowledged, and Samuel L. Jackson‘s alert but world-weary hitman gives this tale of L.A. lowlifes an emotional weightiness Tarantino’s lesser efforts don’t quite achieve.

3. “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)

This alternate-history cartoon is Tarantino at his most entertaining, featuring a continent full of snappily sketched characters and star-making (or -remaking) turns by Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, and Melanie Laurent. But whacking Nazis with bats and setting them on fire don’t add up to much more than a hollow revenge fantasy, however funnily or majestically rendered.

2. “Jackie Brown”(1997)

Tarantino’s only attempt at a real love story (sorry, “Django” doesn’t count), “Jackie Brown” is in many ways the director’s most human film. The soundtrack is flawless, Pam Grier‘s in top form, and the tangled busyness of the criminal escapades just make Jackie and her would-be bail-bondsman suitor’s (Robert Forster) middle-aged melancholy that much more moving.

1. “Django Unchained” (2012)

The rare Tarantino movie to actually be “about” something, “Django Unchained” explores the still-taboo topic of black anger at white Southerners for slavery with wit, ferocity, and cinematic flair. Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio deliver career-best performances in this delirious rhapsody, and for once the director’s signature hyper-violence has a point beyond its own sake. If only Tarantino would allow himself to be so ambitious with every project.