A sober telling of the real-life mission to bring about Nazi justice.
A film that is curiously timely (though those most needing to see this probably won’t) in this Nazi-punching era of empowerment, this adeptly-staged historical drama covers a late chapter in the Jewish Holocaust history. Concerning the post-war years this story is centered on the impromptu quest to capture one of the major figures of the Nazi regime — Adolf Eichmann — living in exile.
Today as we deal with the press being enamored with the cement-headed white nationalist groups, and their equally mentally inept nemesis movement AntiFa, we see their sophomoric posturing as socially pathetic while watching a film focused on true supremacists and those who actually stood up and went after them.
The film is led strongly by Oscar Isaac who plays Mossad agent Peter Malkin, part of a group of agents tasked with traveling to Argentina to confirm that one of the most reviled Nazis has been located, and can be brought to justice. (The operation name plays off of the Third Reich genocide policy called “The Final Solution”, of which Eichmann is called the architect.) Sir Ben Kingsley plays Eichmann in a very nuanced performance that at first seems understated but then evolves as a man with many masks.
Set in 1960, Israel is in a curious stage of building itself into its own nation while still grappling with the generation-altering events of World War II. Malkin is introduced as an agent who is hunting former Nazis and bringing them to justice, sometimes instantly. This both positions Malkin as an agent considered somewhat unreliable but also sets some moral ambiguity to the tasks the new nation undertakes.
In the offices of Mossad an informant comes in to announce there is very credible evidence they have located Eichmann, but the Director dismisses the intel. He states the country is too preoccupied with developing itself and moving forward. Later, in private another agent, Rafi (comedic actor Nik Kroll) sits with the Director and asks him how the nation might react if they were to learn that Mossad had a credible lead on Eichmann and never acted upon it.
This is a calm scene, but it underscores how much import this holds for a nation that is healing and rebuilding. After establishing Eichmann’s whereabouts — working a methodical life as a foreman at an auto plant — the team is put together and sent in via flights from numerous countries. They settle in the Argentinian location that is actually comprised of both a burgeoning underground Nazi community and a Jewish borough.
Once apprehended the second act is largely made up of a mental chess match inside a safe house. With Eichmann held captive the exit strategy has been thwarted by the Germans working with government officials. Then the Israeli State Department will not allow for his extradition without Eichmann first signing a confessional affidavit. The Mossad interrogator, stymied by the Nazi officer, is gradually undermined by Peter’s methods of dealing with the prisoner in order to get the needed signature. The two men play each other cagily.
Absent the breathless plotting and hyper-kinetic editing we are normally served by studio productions — and lacking an overly manipulative score as well — “Finale” draws you in and exposes the impact the mission has on each of the agents. Nazi war crimes are shown in flashback form, without anything overtly graphic, but the gravity is still felt. Hundreds of citizens lined up in a trench, or a score of bodies stacked in a truck are visceral enough, and this underscores what is felt by the agents, all of whom lost varying amounts of family in the Holocaust.
A refreshing departure from most contemporary thrillers this one gives the audience credit for being able to think and feel. It does not need to hammer our senses, but instead the film reveals itself and carries us along as we absorb the import of the mission. By humanizing the impact of what we already know to be an atrocity we are brought along and become vested.
A sterling cast and the era-specific set design aid in the telling. This does not appear like a shimmery period postcard but a realistic setting. This is what it looks like when professionals take on a serious subject.