“Operation Finale” Tells the Story of Eichmann’s Capture without Political Pieties or Banal Moralizing

Aug. 28 2018

The new film Operation Finale tells the story of the Mossad’s capture of Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. In his review, Liel Leibovitz—who as a child knew Peter Malkin, the film’s protagonist—praises the movie for avoiding the pitfalls of other cinematic portrayals of daring Israeli operations:

[C]onsider all the ways in which the director, Chris Weitz, might have failed. He could have, for example, taken the same tedious route as José Padilha in 7 Days in Entebbe [about the notorious hijacking and rescue in 1976], slathering the screen with thick layers of symbolism that neither move nor inform; that movie cross-cut the raid on the terminal in Uganda with a modern dance performance, delivering one of the most unintentionally comical moments in recent cinema. More pedestrianly, Weitz might have opted to reduce the film to just one of its elements, giving us a tense psychological drama that rarely leaves the airless room where the Israeli spy [Malkin] and the fugitive Nazi spent nine days engaged in a battle of wits, or else a fast-paced caper of subterfuge and narrow escapes. . . .

[Operation Finale also] raises far sharper questions about the intersection of justice and revenge than that other recent tale of Mossad agents out on the hunt, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s lugubrious and preachy Munich. . . . In an age when too many filmmakers fashion their work into banners advancing their own political pieties, Weitz gives us something much more valuable: a study in unruly feelings and the extremes we sometimes go to when we strive for or run away from our just deserts. . . .

If you’re hoping to see the banality of evil [the famous phrase Hannah Arendt coined in describing Eichmann] on display, you’re out of luck: Eichmann is played by Ben Kingsley, who manages to be simultaneously imperious, menacing, and vulnerable even when sitting on the toilet. . . . Weitz knows better [than Arendt]. His Eichmann is demonic precisely because he knows exactly how to think from the standpoint of his interrogator, and knows, too, how to sharpen this skill into a weapon. He sees no reason to empathize other than to gain an advantage, which makes him all the more human and all the more terrifying.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Adolf Eichmann, Arts & Culture, Film, Hannah Arendt, Mossad

 

The Logic of Iran’s Global Terror Strategy

During the past few weeks, the Islamic Republic has brutally tried to crush mass demonstrations throughout its borders. In an in-depth study of Tehran’s strategies and tactics, Yossi Kuperwasser argues that such domestic repression is part of the same comprehensive strategy that includes its support for militias, guerrillas, and terrorist groups in the Middle East and further afield, as well as its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Each of these endeavors, writes Kuperwasser, serves the ayatollahs’ “aims of spreading Islam and reducing the influence of Western states.” The tactics vary:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Latin America, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy