I have read many books and seen numerous films about the infamous Nazi regime that swept over Europe like a cancerous sore oozing out unthinkable prejudice, death, and destruction of human beings. More and more stories come to the fore that seek to understand what went wrong with the world at the time and how could some people be so caught up with what Hitler proposed that they sold their soul to his schemes. It is as if they sold their souls to the devil himself.
The film Operation Finale tells of the true story of Hitler’s architect of the Final Solution, SS Officer Adolph Eichmann who fled Germany at the end of World War II to Argentina living peacefully there under an alias name for more than ten years. Directed by Chris Weitz and written by Matthew Orton, this film examines the mind and heart of evil by giving it a human face. As Israeli actor Lior Raz says, who plays the leader of the Mossad, “Inside every human person there is the potential of evil…. This film humanized Eichmann…but he was really a monster with a façade of kindness.”
The story is set in 1960 with a team of Mossad agents who have seemingly other issues of national security to deal with than tracking down more Nazis post Nurenburg trials. Yet, when leader Isser Harel (Lior Raz) receives a tip about the still missing high-ranking overseer and planner of the extermination camps, Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), he quickly pulls a team together to take action. Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac), one of the Israeli spies sent to track down Eichmann, persistently pursues him who is protected by pockets of Nazi sympathizers in the Argentine government and law enforcement.
When the Mossad capture Eichmann they pull him into a safe house while waiting to transport him to Israel for trial. Because they are on Argentine soil they must obtain a signed document by Eichmann himself that he is willing will stand trial in Israel. Eichmann, played by the brilliant Ben Kingsley, stoically refuses. The Mossad agent in charge of persuading Eichmann gets nowhere. Malkin engages Eichmann in conversation every time he takes his turn to guard him. These conversations give Eichmann a sense of humanness to the audience. We are even drawn in to sympathize with him when he continuously asks about his family—the wellbeing of his wife and children. Kingsley’s face softens with intense emotion at these moments, which stand in stark contrast to his otherwise cold and hardened expression. Only when Eichmann asks Malkin about who he has lost in the war do we begin to see his corrupted soul. He taunts Malkin when he describes the mass executions of Jews that he personally oversaw, one of whom was Malkin’s sister and her children. Malkin maddeningly refrains from strangling Eichmann on the spot. Yet, by appealing to his humanness, Malkin actually persuades Eichmann to sign the document.
The tension mounts when transport is delayed and Eichmann’s son, with the help of the Argentine police, discover where Eichmann is held captive and are on the pursuit of the heels of the Mossad. With only seconds to spare, the Mossad board a plane with Eichmann to Israel where he stands trial for crimes against humanity.
How can one face such a person as this where evil seems to reside deep within their core? Eichmann never repented of his crimes but instead kept shifting the blame to his authorities, saying he was only doing what he was ordered to do. This reeks of avoiding responsibility with no remorse. Either he truly believed he was only doing his duty thereby exhibiting the deceptiveness of evil in the soul or the evil within was responding slyly to inquiry only purposely to deceive and leave us to imagine what his true intentions were. Only God will know. The film ends with titles saying he was executed in Israel as a lesson to the world, and as Lior Raz says, “There is a price for your actions.” A story such as this must be told so that the next generations see and understand, “that we cannot let this happen again,” he says. Truly, we must never forget.