Image courtesy of MGM
Review: The “book of memory" remains open at the beginning of Operation Finale, the new post-WWII thriller from director Chris Weitz. The idea of the book represents the lingering scars that the Holocaust left on the Jewish people, and the collective hope that tomorrow could bring closure. This film is the story of Peter Malkin and his team, the brave souls that captured the heinous Adolph Eichmann, the mind behind Hitler’s “final solution.” It is the story of attaining said closure. It is the story of closing the book.
The film stars Oscar Isaac, Sir Ben Kingsley, Mélanie Laurent, Nick Kroll, and a wealth of wonderful supporting players. It is that cast that shines as the backbone of the piece. They have the undeniable chemistry that’s necessary for a story of this weight. There are moments of levity that completely come down to performance, and the cast manages to avoid the common trap of jarring tonal changes. You’re never left wondering if the film understands its identity.
Isaac and Kingsley in particular turn in some stellar work here. There are moments that’ll have you on the edge of your seat as two craftsman effortlessly nail the layers of the dialogue. It’s like a play in the absolute best way. Oscar Isaac is a bonafide star in a truly classic, leading man type way. And Kingsley proves once again why he’s a legend.
The major setback of this film that works against the wonderful performances is the pacing. This is a film where you can feel the length. It isn’t ultimately harmful to the resolution, which definitely plays well, but you might find yourself checking out a bit in the first act. When the film moves, it absolutely has you, but the slow burn isn’t for everyone. An action oriented audience might write this one off. There’s some fat here to be trimmed in a romantic subplot that didn’t need as much focus and some mixed symbolism that could have used another pass on the script.
But all that said, there’s an unsung character there to carry you through at all times: The score.
Alexandre Desplat, fresh off of his Oscar winning work on The Shape of Water, reaffirms why he’s one of the greats. He delivered a subtle, energized, and sometimes terrifying feeling through the music. It moves you forward and adds so much to the small in between moments of the story.
Operation Finale was a great surprise. It managed to chip away at my “tired of WWII related movies” mindset and present things in a truly engaging way. Again, it won’t be for everyone as it definitely takes its time to breathe. But if you give it a chance, I think you’ll quite like it. There’s something unique and hopeful here, and I look forward to the conversations it sparks.