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Tom Shillue

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‘Operation Finale’ is well-acted, historically responsible, and compelling

It seems to me that anyone who sees “Operation Finale” will be moved by it, and impressed by it. But it has its problems and weaknesses. How do you make a movie where most of the action involves two guys in a locked room? And of course Peter Malkin, played by Oscar Isaac, is trying not to become sympathetic, or to have any identifications with Adolph Eichmann.

I give “Operation Finale” three out of four stars.

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The story that “Operation Finale” concentrates on is the story of Peter Malkin, who was one of the leaders of the Israeli expedition into Argentina to capture Eichmann and bring him back to Israel for trial in 1960-61. It’s a very interesting film, and is historically responsible, though not perfect.

The film is a labor of love for the director Chris Weitz, who is best known for very different kinds of movies. He previously made the “American Pie” movies and directed a fine Hugh Grant film, “About a Boy.”

But his father escaped from Germany right before the war, and he had many family members who were killed. We remain in an era where people are talking about the morality of actually punishing and capturing people for war crimes. Even as recently as last week, there was a Nazi war criminal who was successfully deported, finally, from the United States.

It’s one of those subjects that doesn’t get old. This is a real secret agent story. We seem to be perpetually fascinated by high-risk, high-profile, undercover operations. And Operation Finale, which is what Mossad — the Israeli intelligence agency — called it, is about the joint venture between Mossad and Shin Bet, two different intelligence agencies.

Ben Kingsley likely an Oscar nominee for ‘Operation Finale’ role

The film is exceptionally well acted. Sir Ben Kingsley, who plays Eichmann, is a very likely Oscar nominee for best supporting actor, and probably Oscar winner. His performance is extraordinary and portrays Eichmann as a more compelling figure than the actual Eichmann seemed to be during his long, very well-publicized trial.

As a refresher, Adolph Eichmann was a high-ranking SS officer who became one of the key bureaucrats of The Final Solution. He basically was responsible for arranging the train transport and other transport of millions of people into the death camps. Eichmann helped in a “greater efficiency” with the killing, which was the use of gas chambers. When he finally stood trial for his crimes, he insisted that he was just following orders. This became the highest profile of all the Nazi war crimes trials because most of the trials at Nuremberg took place in 1945-46 right after the war. But Eichmann escaped.

I do think Ben Kingsley projects intelligence in all his roles. Remember that he also played the crucial supporting role in “Schindler’s List.” It’s stunning that the same actor can very plausibly portray a Jewish victim of the Holocaust and portray Adolph Eichmann as well.

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