Updated: Sep 24, 2019
4K ULTRA HD / BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital copy, PG-13 for disturbing thematic and violent content and language; Streaming via Amazon Video, FandangoNOW, Google Play, iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: Commentary by writer/director Chris Weitz
SET MORE than a decade after the end of World War II, “Operation Finale” is a retelling of the incidents leading up to the 1960 abduction and transportation from Argentina to Israel of Adolf Eichmann, so he could stand trial for crimes against humanity.
Eichmann, who was known as an “architect of the Final Solution,” had been in hiding outside of Buenos Aires when he was tracked down by members of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service. The film, directed by Chris Weitz (“The Golden Compass”) focuses on Peter Malkin, played by Oscar Isaac (also listed as a producer), who was an Israeli Mossad agent and wrote a memoir about the subject. Malkin, we soon discover, had a sister who, with her three children, was murdered by Nazis, an incident which clearly haunts and preoccupies his life.
Eichmann, rivetingly played by Ben Kingsley, has been working at an Argentine Mercedes-Benz factory, using an assumed name and sharing his modest country house with his wife (Greta Scacchi) and two sons. His older son, Klaus (Joe Alwyn), is posing as Eichmann’s nephew but continues to use his real last name. To confirm the suspicions of Eichmann’s identity, Malkin and his fellow agents in Israel enlist a Buenos Aires Holocaust survivor and his daughter Sylvia (Haley Lu Richardson). Sylvia had been raised Catholic and unaware of her father’s history and had dated Klaus before she learned the truth about him and herself. The film slowly builds suspense as the abduction is planned and executed. But the real tension occurs when the El Al flight back to Israel is delayed for 10 days, during which the captors must avoid discovery by Argentinian fascists, and get Eichmann to sign an agreement to go to trial in Israel. A strange relationship develops between Malkin and Eichmann, captor and prisoner, as the two men have daily contact and a psychological cat and mouse game ensues.
This Universal Studios 4K streaming and Blu-ray transfer are sourced from 3.4K digital cameras (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and IMDb.com say it was mastered in 4K. Honestly, it looks like it was mastered in 2K since the 4K and Blu-ray have similar clarity. Both are striking, as fine detail is always evident from the abundance of low-lit scenes and occasional grainy texture. The intentionally muted colors make the rare appearances of bright red (as in the Nazi insignias) especially jarring. Strangely there’s no expansive HDR toning, which would’ve given the 4K a more striking presentation.
The six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also excellent, with effects realistic and balanced, and dialogue extremely clear.
A brief making-of documentary contains interviews with cast, producers, and crew. The commentary by Weitz is very well done and full of interesting trivia and technical information. The director emphasizes how much of the film is taken from actual documentation, as well as Malkin’s memoir, with attention paid to the smallest details. He points out the music accompanying the opening credits, a “Bernard Herrmann retro-score,” so as to make that sequence “movie-ish.” Weitz notes that when the names in the credits belong to people who have any Jewish heritage, they get digitally scratched out, implying those people’s vulnerability had they been in Europe during the last World War.
Weitz admits to self-indulgence in a scene where Sylvia and Klaus go to the movies. On the screen is a scene from “Imitation of Life,” the 1959 film about a young biracial woman, who passes as white, played by Susan Kohner. Kohner is Weitz’s mother. His Jewish father had emigrated to the U.S. from Germany and became an O.S.S. agent, returning undercover to pose as a Nazi officer. He later went on to write a book about prominent Nazis. Weitz explains, except for some studio sets and CG effects, the “Operation Finale” was shot on location in Argentina. He says he wanted the film’s aspect ratio to “reflect older films … where people are more important than backgrounds.” He also defends his decision to allow his actors to speak with their own accents, rather than have them try to imitate others: “Fake accents serve as a scrim between the audience and the actor.”
A goal of Weitz’s was to make “Operation Finale” a “post-fact movie,” as there are still people who deny that many of the events of the Holocaust took place. He mentions lucky accidents that occurred during the shooting, such as when Eichmann is abducted at a bus stop and the sky lit up with a lightning flash. When a white horse appeared near the shoot, from an adjacent farm, Weitz used it in the background, creating an eerie specter. The director says he allowed the actors to move around in ways that felt natural to what their character was saying or doing, rather than “choreographing them too much.”
— Peggy Earle