Reviews for the Easily Distracted

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Operation Finale

Title: Operation Finale

Describe This Movie In One Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade Quote:

INDIANA JONES: I hate these guys.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Nazi punk trucked off.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 bowler hats out of 5

Tagline: "After World War II, Hitler's deadliest lieutenant escaped."

Better Tagline: "Man, were there any *good* Adolfs?"

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: While Adolf Hitler and several of his highest ranking henchmen had the decency to commit suicide in the waning days of WWII, Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley) — the logistics mastermind behind the Nazis' "Final Solution" — fled to Argentina, assuming the name 'Ricardo Klement.' When his true identity is discovered by Israel, the decision is made to send a Mossad team to Buenos Aires to extract Eichmann and return him to Israel to answer for his crimes.

"Critical" Analysis:
 The story of the Mossad operation to infiltrate Argentina and kidnap the man who, at the time, was the highest ranking member of the Third Reich to escape justice (by their own hands or those of the Nuremburg Tribunals) is already fascinating, not just because it’s true, but also because – like the war predating it – the good guy/bad guy line is pretty clearly drawn.

Put another way, director Chris Weitz (The Twilight Saga: New Moon, The Golden Compass) didn’t exactly need to Argo this up for us, but that’s pretty much exactly what he does.

There are a few differences: instead of a lone secret agent and a bunch of escapees, there are a slew of operatives, including team lead Rafi Eitan (Nick Kroll), head interrogator Zvi Aharoni (Michael Aronov), and loose-ish cannon Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac); they’re also forced to cool their heels for several days in a safe house while police and fascist sympathizers comb the city; and they have to make a daring escape (though probably not as daring as shown onscreen) via airplane.

As with most cinematic depictions of historical events where we already know the outcome (spoiler alert: they get him), the tension comes from the smaller details. Kingsley is formidable in this regard, trying to sell Eichmann to Malkin et al. as a misled bureaucrat until it becomes clear he’s not weaseling his way out of capture. Malkin, meanwhile, is keenly aware of the importance of bringing Eichmann in alive, in spite of his fellow agents’ ambivalence or his own painful personal connection to the Holocaust.

The movie itself is fine, if hurried (this could’ve been a decent limited series). Matthew Orton’s script draws some obvious parallels between Eichmann’s attempts to whitewash his past and current events (Eichmann even asks “whose truth?” Malkin thinks will be revealed at his eventual trial), which you could only argue aren't necessary if you’ve been napping for the last couple years.

Operation Finale is only the latest in an increasing number of films about the Holocaust and its aftermath, and there’s a reason for that. Consider the sheer scope of human existence, the tectonic shifts in global power, and the countless individuals who played a role throughout. Now think about how the Holocaust is the only clearly documented historical event that is actively denied by a distressingly large number of people.

We can argue about the significance of the Battle of Gettysburg or whether Alexander ever really cut the Gordian Knot, but every year there are fewer and fewer actual eyewitnesses to the Third Reich’s atrocities, and a growing contingent who say it never happened. That's why movies like this are still needed.

Operation Finale is in theaters today.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar