Review: 'Operation Finale' disappoints despite Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley's roaring performances

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How can I actually explain what is wrong with Chris Weitz' "Operation Finale"? That's the question that I pondered as I exited the screening of this post-WWII Jewish hunt for Nazis, and was reminded, oddly enough, of the equally dull "Argo." What both films oddly share in common is a rather pedantic, oddly mediocre look at what is, in essence, an extraordinary true story. Suffice to say, this is not the invigoratingly authentic, no-frills cinema of Jews chasing Nazis that I had in mind. I guess what I'm trying to say is this: "Operation Finale" is no "Munich." 

The film is based on the true story of a 1960 Israeli covert mission, and as with all Israeli covert missions this must include Mossad and its lethal agents. More specifically, the story of legendary Mossad agent Peter Malkin's infiltration into Argentina and his capture of Adolf Eichmann. Why does Mossad want Eichmann so bad? Well, apart from being a sort of trusted side man for Hitler, Eichmann, it turns out, was the brains behind the transportation logistics that brought the Jews to their deaths by train.

Malkin is played here by Oscar Isaac, a reputable and reliable actor, and the part of Eichmann is played by Ben Kingsley, whom has been cast in a handful of Jewish-themed movies over his illustrious career. Both actors invest themselves into their roles far beyond the reaches most other actors could possibly achieve. It's a testament to both of these actor's talents that they manage to raise a timidly written screenplay by Matthew Orton into a watchable battle of the wits, most notably when Eichmann is finally caught and the questioning, even torture, begins in order to have the Nazi confess and sign to his crimes. It's quite obvious that Isaac and Kingsley deserved much better than this not-very-nuanced affair, but they both have enough chemistry to sustain what is a clumsily told story.

I'm flabbergasted at the complete lack of style the film has, instead Weitz decides to bank on old-school storytelling, which is all fine and dandy, but not when your film is this thinly sketched and fails to truly envelop you into the enormity of the historic events at hand. There is no urge, in the part of the viewer, to fully submerge his or herself and be swept up by this story. Instead, you are always aware that what you are seeing up there on the screen are actors re-creating true events, rather than these true events, much like in "Munich," coming back to life and making you care about the enormity of it all. [C]