This came out last year and has had limited public screening. It’s Operation Finale, and it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia, which lists major players:
- Oscar Isaac as Peter Malkin
- Ben Kingsley as Adolf Eichmann
- Lior Raz as Isser Harel
- Mélanie Laurent as Dr. Hanna Elian
- Nick Kroll as Rafi Eitan
- Joe Alwyn as Klaus Eichmann
- Haley Lu Richardson as Sylvia Hermann
- Michael Aronov as Zvi Aharoni
- Peter Strauss as Lothar 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
The Nazis rose to power from 1930 to 1933, promising repudiation of the Versailles Treaty and promising a return to German supremacy. They targeted communists and Jews, particularly portraying Jews as disloyal at best and even subhuman. Once in power Adolf Hitler and his like-minded underlings set about subjugating the Jewish population.
Germany had a Jewish population of about 437,000 when Hitler came to power, and in the order of 250,000 of those emigrated, seeking refuge. Most of those remaining were imprisoned and eventually murdered by the Nazis. In 1939 Hitler’s armed forces invaded Poland and launched a campaign to invade and to occupy other European nations. Extermination of Jews in these countries became a component of the conquest.
This movie highlights one of the individuals principally responsible for the murder of approximately six million European Jews. He was Adolf Eichmann, who was tasked with engineering the mass killings.
An opening scene shows a young woman, seemingly alone in a forest. No explanation is needed. We have seen the souvenir photos taken by those who perpetrated the crimes. She is going to be killed here in the forest, where her body will vanish, unseen by her neighbors, who might later be able to deny knowing what happened.
A recurring clip from the movie shows a hand cleaning something from the cuff of a white shirt. It never comes completely clean throughout the movie.
It is years after the war, and a handful of the perpetrators of Nazi crimes have been put on trial, some executed, some serving prison sentences. Others have fled to Argentina, at the time a country not ideologically opposed to Nazi philosophy. Lothar Hermann is living in Argentina, and he is blind. He is a German of Jewish ancestry, and he is with his daughter Sylvia, having a conversation with young Klaus Eichmann, a friend of Sylvia’s. Lothar begins to suspect the man Klaus claims is his uncle is actually Adolf Eichmann. The hunt for Adolf Eichmann begins.
After the war many surviving European Jews fled to Palestine, a British territory at the time. By force of arms they founded the state of Israel. We see members of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, initiate a plan to capture Adolf Eichmann and to bring him to justice. But first they need to demonstrate Klaus Eichmann’s “uncle” is Adolf Eichmann.
Nazi sympathizers are powerful in Argentina. They hold meetings, speaking of a return of Nazi glory.
Sylvia abruptly leaves one such gathering, angering Klaus. Israeli agents encourage her to confirm whether the uncle really is Adolf Eichmann. She goes to his home, ostensibly to apologize for her actions, but really to confirm the relationship. She hears Klaus call the man “father.” He is Adolf Eichmann.
Peter Malchin fled to Palestine and was not present when his sister Fruma and her three children were murdered, but he imagines the events as they might have transpired. Here we see Fruma being hanged, but her children are already dead, lying on the ground by the tree on the left. Peter joined Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency and we see him in the movie heading up the operation to capture Eichmann.
Mossad agents infiltrate Argentina and carefully prepare the capture and exfiltration of Eichmann. He works as a manager at a Mercedes-Benz plant near Buenos Aires and has regular habits. He takes the same bus to his home on Garibaldi Street, and agents wait for him in the dark. But he’s not on his regular bus, so they wait longer and spot him getting off the next bus and walking to his house. The agents subdue him. One of the agents, a doctor, injects him with a tranquilizer.
For days they hold Eichmann in a prepared hideout, where they question him extensively. They need to confirm he is Adolf Eichmann. He soon concedes he is, but there is another problem. El-Al, the airline they plan to use for the extraction, will not transport an unwilling passenger. A great portion of the movie is dedicated to convincing Eichmann to sign the waiver.
There is a scene that is not explained. A woman known only as Graciela is tortured to give up the location where Eichmann is being held. There seems to be no historical record of this event, but it cannot be denied that Argentinian police would employ such methods.
The movie depicts a race to get Eichmann out of the country before the police close in, and this is in accordance with the history of the case. Peter rushes to the control tower with a copy of the landing permit, and clearance to take off is authorized. Peter remains behind, returning to Israel surreptitiously.
The part the world knows best is the trial of Adolf Eichmann. It was documented on film and was presented to the world as a vindication of Jews worldwide against historical intolerance.
Peter watches part of the trial, and he departs. He visualizes Fruma and her children in the crowd surrounding the court room, only he sees them not in Israel, but in the woods in Poland where they were murdered. She turns and disappears among the trees with her children.
The film had potential for a thriller plot, but blood-pounding drama was left dangling in favor of, first, adherence to historical accuracy and, two, acquiescence to a moral lesson, the central theme.
Additionally, many of the scenes are played true to reality by being shot in almost total darkness. You have to pay attention to the dialog to know what’s going on. Yes, the Mossad agents waited for a dark night to snatch Eichmann, but we are treated to shadowy outlines and the sounds of scuffling.
The interrogation of Eichmann by the Mossad agents is central to the plot, but it is overplayed. We are supposed to get into the mind of Eichmann as he eventually confesses his crimes, but we already knew this stuff going into the movie.
Flashbacks are scenes we have previously watched in documentaries. Hundreds of people, men, women, and children, huddle inside a deep trench, where they will be shot and buried. A mother holds up her child to Eichmann, as if begging him to spare the child. He tells how the bullet that killed her first passed through the child. Some of the matter got on the cuff of his white shirt.
The scene of the woman being tortured by Argentinian authorities is within character. The country has had a turbulent past, particularly highlighted by the “dirty war” of 1976 to 1983. In 2001 tourists could stand and view the tribute to los desaparecidos painted on sidewalks. Some 30,000 people were “disappeared” by the military government during this time.