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Film / Operation Finale

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Operation Finale is a 2018 film directed by Chris Weitz.

It is a Based on a True Story tale of the Israeli mission to kidnap Adolf Eichmann in 1960. Israeli intelligence receives word that Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), head of "Jewish affairs" for the SS and a principal architect of The Holocaust, is hiding in Argentina under the name "Ricardo Klement", working in a factory, with his wife and children. He's even hobnobbing with Argentinian fascists that support deposed dictator Juan Peron.

Argentina has proven unwilling to hand over the Nazis hiding there, so the Israelis elect to stage a daring mission to kidnap Eichmann and bring him back to Israel for trial. Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), who has experience in hunting down and killing fugitive Nazis, is part of the Mossad team sent to Argentina. The mission is difficult: they must find "Klement", confirm that he is Eichmann, kidnap him, then somehow get him past security at the Buenos Aires airport and on to an El Al plane. They succeed in snatching Eichmann, but a passer-by sees Malkin's face...

Mélanie Laurent plays Hanna Elian, Peter's old girlfriend and a medical doctor who is charged with keeping Eichmann sedated on the way to the airport. Nick Kroll plays Rafi Eitan, leader of the Mossad team. Alexandre Desplat composed the score.

Tropes featured in the movie:

  • Abusive Parents: Implied with Eichmann, who physically slams his son into a wall at one point to lecture him about his behaviour.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Moshe chuckles at Eichmann's joke about how the perfect Nazi must be "as thin as Goering, as tall as Goebbels, and as blond as Hitler", only to immediately look shame-faced.
  • Argentina Is Nazi-Land: Well, there certainly were quite a few fugitive Nazis there, including Eichmann and Josef Mengele. Their ringleader even suggests that they could build a Fourth Reich there if they play their cards right, and attempts to recruit Eichmann to take part in this new regime.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The film gives the impression that Susan's date with Klaus and the intelligence that Eichmann is in Buenos Aires came shortly before the raid. In fact four full years elapsed between word of Eichmann's whereabouts and Operation Finale.
    • It was true that Eichmann wasn't trying that hard to lay low—his children still called themselves "Eichmann" after all—but there certainly weren't meetings of Nazis and Argentinian fascists where everybody shouted "Sieg Heil!"
    • The whole sequence where the Argentinian police get a line on the Mossad team, swoop down on the safe house, and then race to the airport, is an invention for Rule of Drama. In Real Life Eichmann's sons searched around somewhat randomly but had no real idea where their father was until they heard that an El Al flight had come and gone.
    • The doctor in charge of sedating Eichmann was a man.
    • Peter was never on the plane to Israel with Eichmann. There was a problem with the flight plan, but it was a missing signature, and the controller wanted to know the flight route alternate.
  • Babies Ever After: The last scene reveals that Hanna is pregnant. Besides the usual happy ending aspect of this trope it's also a Call-Back, as earlier in the film Peter told Eichmann that he hasn't had children because of the tragedies he suffered in the Holocaust.
  • Badass Israeli: An entire squad of Mossad agents who enter into Argentina and pull off a daring mission to find, kidnap, and smuggle out Adolf Eichmann alive.
  • Bigot with a Crush: Played realistically. Klaus Eichmann becomes attracted to Sylvia Hermann, a German Jew whose father immigrated to Argentina after living through the Holocaust but raised her Catholic. Klaus even takes her to a meeting of ex-Nazi fugitives. Sylvia is horrified by the rampant anti-Semitism and abruptly leaves, is only convinced to visit Klaus one more time by her father to gather intelligence on Klaus's father Adolf Eichmann, and Klaus immediately rejects her when she admits that she's a Jew.
  • British Nazis: Adolf Eichmann, played by the British Ben Kingsley Not Even Bothering with the Accent.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: At one point after they find out that the Argentine police are looking for them, Yaakov is pacing and sucking on his cigarette so hard that Rafi tells him to take a walk because he's making everyone else nervous.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Argentinian State Sec kidnaps Graciela, the servant working for the Israelis, and cruelly tortures her until she gives up where they are hiding.
  • Correction Bait: Aharoni, the Mossad interrogator, comes up with the idea of taunting Eichmann into admitting his identity by continually getting his SS identification number wrong during questioning. It works, as sheer irritation leads Eichmann to correct them and admit his true name.
  • The Dead Have Names: Eichmann asks Peter whom he lost, then politely asks what was her name. It plays as Eichmann showing at least some empathy, but that's subverted later when he uses what he found out to play mind games with Peter.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Eichmann is living with his family when the agents capture him. Peter witnesses him with his youngest son looking out at a passing train.
  • Flashback: Brief flashbacks to Eichmann's career during the war, including what appears to be the Wannsee Conference and a scene where Eichmann witnesses a mass shooting of Jews in a Polish forest.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The scene from Imitation of Life (1959) featured at the start of the movie (where Sylvia and Klaus met) is echoed/recreated when the latter confronts the former about her Jewish ethnicity.
    • Peter repeatedly mutters the phrase that he needs to say before confronting both of the Nazis he and his team arrests.
  • Gilligan Cut: Eichmann's insistence that he spent all his time behind a desk and never saw the practical results of his work is intercut with flashbacks showing him present at scenes of Jews being shot.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop:
    • Peter sort of falls into this accidentally. But after Aharoni's attempts to threaten Eichmann into signing a letter agreeing to be extradited fail, Peter's talking to Eichmann and showing some level of understanding gets him to sign.
    • The Argentinian police brutally torture Graciela but don't get any info out of her. After Klaus comes in, screams for them to stop, and gently tells Graciela that he just wants to get his father back and it will all be over if she gives the address, she does.
  • Hassle-Free Hotwire: The Mossad team has to get the hell out in a hurry after discovering that the cops are coming. They can't all fit into their car—but in a matter of seconds they hotwire another one and zoom off to the airport.
  • Headbutt of Love: Peter and Hanna do this in a moment of relief after Eichmann is successfully snatched.
  • Imagine Spot: Peter, who doesn't know just how his sister Fruma died in the Holocaust, imagines different fates—hanged from a tree, shot with a rifle, gassed in a van. Near the end of the film, as Eichmann is standing trial, he imagines her coming up to him and kissing him on the cheek.
  • Improperly Paranoid: The agents consider cancelling the kidnapping when, while feigning a vehicle breakdown, a cyclist they don't recognise from their surveillance stops to ask if they need help.
  • Jewish Mother: Peter's mom, who inquires nosily about his relationship with Hanna and tells him to eat his soup before it gets cold.
  • Just Following Orders: Most of the Nazis who stood trial after the war used this defense and so does Eichmann, who insists that he was following orders from his superiors and thus is not personally guilty.
  • Kick the Dog: Eichmann brags about Mossad killing the wrong person in their hunt for him, even claiming to keep a framed newspaper article about the case. He also physically pushes his son Klaus around in one scene and claims to have witnessed the execution of Peter's sister in order to taunt him.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Very few of the actors make any attempt to speak with anything other than their natural accents, so we get German, Israeli and Argentinian characters speaking with American and British accents.
  • One-Woman Wail: Heard over the footage of Eichmann's trial.
  • Operation: [Blank]: "Operation Finale", the gutsy plan to find and kidnap the worst fugitive Nazi there was.
  • Reflexive Response: At the beginning of the film, the Nazi hunter Mossad agents go to a house where they suspect former Nazis are living. The residents are smart enough to hide their Nazi books and iconography, but when questioning them, one agent suddenly drops a "Heil Hitler", which makes the Nazis' kids jump to attention and repeat it back.
  • Relative Button: Just before being taken back to Israel, Eichmann antagonizes Peter about his sister being killed in the Holocaust, cruelly speculating about possibly seeing her being shot in Lublin and bragging that his life is worth six million of hers.
  • Saying Too Much: Klaus accidentally refers to Eichmann as "father" in front of Sylvia, giving away that he's lying about his relation to the boy named Eichmann.
  • Shame If Something Happened: The Mossad agents try to break Eichmann this way by making veiled threats about his family, but he calls their bluff.
  • Shout-Out: Sylvia meets Klaus at a movie theater where they are watching Imitation of Life, specifically a scene featuring Susan Kohner—Chris Weitz's mom.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Hanna is the only woman in the team to capture Eichmann, and given a relationship with Peter Malkin. As mentioned above, the real doctor who sedated Eichmann was a man.
  • Spanner in the Works:
    • El Al refuse to take Eichmann back to Israel without a signed document from Eichmann saying he's going voluntarily. Given that Mossad has kidnapped him and he knows full well that any trial held in Israel would be a foregone conclusion, he's understandably reluctant to do so. The agents could forge his signature but they don't have an original to copy, so a large part of the drama is trying to break down Eichmann mentally so he'll sign.
    • Graciela sees an agent stashing their supply of US dollars and steals it. Unfortunately the Nazis are on the alert for anyone using US dollars, and get tipped off when she tries to exchange them for Argentinian pesos.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: The police distribute the sketch of Peter. A sharp-eyed airport guard recognizes him and raises the alarm.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A brief epilogue states that Eichmann was hanged in 1961 and Peter lived until 2005.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: Eichmann obviously doesn't know how Fruma died. But right before it's time to leave, and after Peter told him that they think she died in the woods outside Lublin, Eichmann tells him how he saw a mass shooting in that same forest. He describes how a woman who might well have been Fruma held up her baby before a single bullet killed them both. He wants to taunt Peter into killing him, but Hanna enters the room and stops Peter Just in Time.