Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Thanks to MGM for inviting me to an advanced screening of this film for the purposes of review.
When it comes to the genre of World War II films, there has been a clear over-saturation in terms of the number of films being produced and released. This trend has prevailed over decades and even though highlights like Dunkirk and Hacksaw Ridge may have prevailed in their respective years, there are still a large number of films that don’t quite live up to the mystification and grandeur of their historical era. At a quick glance during the first act of the film, that quality seemed to be able to be attached to Oscar Isaac’s new film Operation Finale, a film that chronicles the daring true story about how one of the most daring historical missions was brought about. It had a weak and clichéd screenplay littered with critical issues from its characterization to even its uncannily unrealistic dialogue. It displayed performances that even from top-notch actors, like Joe Alwyn’s Klaus Eichmann, that appeared uninspired and phony. However, following a shockingly fast development of events and the introduction of more screen time for the brilliant performance from Ben Kingsley, Operation Finale quickly escalates into a much faster, wittier, smarter, and overall better experience thanks to a fascinating dynamic between the performances of both Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley. Without these two actors, the film is nothing other than a drab and overbearing thriller. But with these two stellar performances, Operation Finale becomes a high-staked thriller that may have critical pacing and writing issues in its screenplay but still mostly passes thanks to an interesting dynamic between two wholly different characters.
As mentioned previously, Operation Finale has serious issues within its screenplay. It continues the snarky recent trend of having little originality in both the story and storytelling. There isn’t any aspect to the film that feels remotely fresh. While making a film, especially in such a tired and worn-out genre, fresh is certainly a difficult challenge, Operation Finale doesn’t even attempt to tackle the task. Every scene’s writing, from its pandering dialogue to the staggering pacing, feels outsourced from other and better films. In addition, the film also features one of the most inconsistent pacing of any recent entertainment releases that I have experienced recently. Bouncing between from a high-staked, stylish heist film to a slow and drab, dialogue-driven political film with the gracefulness of a child creates a rare illusion of disbelief. There are simply too many changing cogs in the machine that is Operation Finale to create both a coherent tone and style.
However, even with these critical issues that almost entirely compromise the screenplay, there are some noticeable benefits and advantages in the screenplay, namely the fascinating dynamic between Ben Kingsley’s Adolf Eichmann and Oscar Isaac’s Peter Malkin. These two characters share some of the best sequences in the entire film, even if their scenes are mostly drab and uninspired in terms of their pacing. Each scene that they share feels engrossingly realistic in such a way as to where it outshines anything else in the entire film. As a result, I wish that writer Matthew Orton had placed more emphasis and time into this dynamic rather than focusing on the drab aspects of the first act of the film.
As mentioned previously, Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac share an incredible character dynamic, making for an aspect that is easily the best part about the film in its entire 122-minute length. With such a novel difference between the two characters, it creates a short divide between their ideologies that never is forgotten but is sometimes placed behind some incredible moments of shared empathy. None of them garner any true tears or heart-wrenching emotion but they are satisfactory replacements for actual characterization in the film, even with most of their scenes being filled with exposition-heavy sequences.
When it comes to the supporting cast, however, they are less than ideal. None of the characters, from Joe Alwyn’s Klaus Eichmann, the son of Ben Kingsley’s character, to Mélanie Laurent’s serviceable Hanna, make an impression greater than that of a cameo. Their roles are often so minor and replaceable that it eliminates all sense of urgency for the audience to develop a relationship with the heavy roster of characters. This effect is also due to the absurdly weak aspects to some of the performance. Most of the lines themselves may be dull and derivative, but the performances reflect that characteristic in monumentally greater ways. While Kingsley’s and Isaac’s performances may have improved the quality of the screenplay, the supporting cast effectively removes the redeeming aspects of the dialogue and places on display the true weakness of it.
Technically speaking, Operation Finale doesn’t have much when it goes against over recent summer blockbusters such as The Meg and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. There are no major action sequences with flying bouts of weakly-incorporated CGI. There are no massive set pieces set in the historical background of 1960. As a modern World War II flick, it almost completely diverts from the standard norm of placing the action before the actual story. However, while the CGI and special effects seem non-existent, the score from composer Alexandre Desplat is amazing and stylish for that matter. It represents melodic tones and elements that are both historically accurate but appropriate for the subject nature of the film.
As a whole, Operation Finale is unquestionably a rocky experience. It has a fascinating dynamic between its two lead actors, Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac. It features a stellar score from Desplat that is used both as a method of storytelling and compelling novelty. But it also has incoherent pacing, leading to a filmmaking style that is confusing and overdone. It is derivative from the very beginning with scenes feeling neither fresh in their design or execution. But in the end, thanks to the brilliant performances from Kingsley and Isaac, it creates a passable film that doesn’t have any horrifyingly unhealthy elements but doesn’t have any attributes that call for a theatrical release.
Score: 5.2 out of 10