Now in theaters, Operation Finale recounts the 1960 capture of top Nazi lieutenant Adolf Eichmann by a group of Israeli secret agents. The movie is top notch: thrilling, emotional, and dramatic. One issue with the messaging, though, is detrimental.
As is practice with films based on true events, Operation Finale concludes with a real photo of the main character Peter Malkin. There is a blurb about HIS death in 2005, noting that his wife and children survived him. Then, the credits immediately roll. Wait a minute, what happened to everyone else?
Up until that point, Operation Finale was clearly an ensemble movie. The entire team had substantial roles. Granted, Malkin does get the most screen time and is the de facto “hero” because he’s the most renowned squad member. He’s portrayed by Oscar Isaac, who, along with Ben Kingsley as Eichmann, is the film’s biggest star. Spotlighting him makes perfect sense, but shunning the rest of the crew feels odd.
A full roster of Mossad agents – not just Malkin – captured the architect of the final solution. Surely a tribute would be appropriate.
It’s not as if the other operatives aren’t noteworthy. Without Ephraim Ilani, Moshe Tabor, and Yaakov Gat on hand, the mission would have most likely failed. Most of the crew went on to other positions. Mossad director Isser Harel (Lior Raz) served in the Knesset. Zvi Aharoni (Michael Aronov) became a prominent businessman. Rafi Eitan (Nick Kroll) advised Margaret Thatcher on counter-terrorism efforts and is still in good health.
Unfortunately, the credits aren’t the only time the film erases the larger squad. In Malkin’s 1990 autobiography, he writes how after he grabbed Eichmann’s arm, he wrestled him to the ground with the help of another agent. On screen, however, that heart-pounding scene morphs into a showcase for Isaac. He tackles Kingsley on his own, then receives assistance shortly after.
Operation Finale is one of the rare Holocaust movies that isn’t overly depressing because its theme is how the Jewish people persevere. The trial and execution of Eichmann wasn’t merely revenge. It showed the world first-hand testimony of the Holocaust’s horrors, and that Jews were still proudly flourishing.
In fact, the film touches on that when Hanna (Mélanie Laurent) chastises Peter for lunging at Eichmann, thinking only about his sister murdered by the Nazis. “This is bigger than just you,” she tells him. Earlier, the characters sat around a table and memorialized the loved ones they lost in the war. It’s a touching moment that reminds us what unites this group.
By turning the combined efforts of many into one man’s heroics, the writers of Operation Finale go against everything the story stands for.