‘Operation Finale’: A Thriller Portraying the Capture and Extradition of Adolf Eichmann

‘Operation Finale’, starring Ben Kingsley, is a new film that portrays the capture of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires and his extradition to Israel to stand trial the following year.

In May of 1960, Israeli secret agents captured Adolf Eichman – one of the main organizers of the Holocaust – while he was in hiding in Argentina. Following his capture by the Mossad, he was put on trial in Jerusalem in an event open to the public. The event, which was designed to be an international response to the Holocaust was later chronicled in numerous books including Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem.”

While ‘Operation Finale’ is an honest depiction on the efforts of Israel and others to uncover Eichmann’s whereabouts in South America, it is also a film about how evil is intertwined with the human spirit of some people, particularly Nazis.
Like other portrayals, the film portrays the capturing of Eichmann – he is kidnapped by the agents at a bus stop and then dragged to a nearby car – but the excitement starts right there when he must be deported to Israel.

What separates the ‘Operation Finale’ movie from other artistic endeavors relating to the capture of Eichmann is its attempt to address the moral issues behind hunting down Eichmann in a foreign country and then caring for him when plans for extradition begin to go wrong. Eichmann’s comfortable ties to Argentina’s military dictatorship put the Israeli agents in an extra level of danger and ensure that the Mossad cannot just come in and complete their mission without a hitch.

The film examines how the actions of agents push Argentine and international legal norms to the limits and stoke antisemitism within Argentina.
Aside from a strong retelling of the historical events, ‘Operation Finale’ also accurately captures the period and atmosphere of 50’s and 60’s Argentina with everyone smoking copious amounts of cigarettes antique cars, and boxy suits.

One aspect complicating the mission is that many of the agents on Eichamann’s tail are haunted by memories and emotions related to the fact that the Germans killed their family members. Thus, the concept of whether the agents are seeking justice or revenge to is constantly in a state of flux. One of the main characters – Israeli Nazi hunter Peter Malkin – is particularly tormented by flashbacks by the death of his sister and her children at the hands of the Nazis in Europe.

Another complicating element is that Eichmann must sign a paper agreeing to his deportation as it is required by the Argentinian government. Once captured by the Mossad, the former Nazi attempts to charm and win over his Israeli captors in every way. Eichmann says time and again that he had no choice but to obey Hitler’s orders but we see throughout the film how a normal person’s individual decisions can thrust them towards various degrees of evil.