5 years ago today, on December 6th, 2013, the Coen Brothers released their film “Inside Llewyn Davis” starring Oscar Isaac. Filmed with great atmosphere, the movie captured the folk singer era of the early 1960s, especially focusing on New York’s Greenwich Village. Oscar Isaac gave an eye-opening performance to put himself on the cinematic map, the production won the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival that year, and it produced one heck of a soundtrack album.
Operation Finale – A solid but unexceptional suspense drama based on true life events with two quality performances by the leads, Oscar Isaac and Ben Kingsley. Based on the Israeli 1960 operation to extract Nazi officer and co-architect of the “Final Solution” Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the film captures the tension and drama of the situation well, but there are also certainly dramatic licenses taken to up the suspense quotient (a la Argo a few years back). Isaac plays a Mossad agent who lost his sister in the Holocaust and wants justice at all costs. Unfortunately that fervor has resulted in mistakes in previous covert operations against Nazis on the run which has led to colleagues being wary of having them on their team for this important mission. Once the target is confirmed as high ranking Nazi officer Eichmann (a superb Kingsley), his experience wins out and he joins the Mossad team to kidnap Eichmann from non-extradition Argentina to await trial in Israel. When authorities in Argentina get word of the plot, its a race against time to stop the Israeli agents from getting out of the country with the high profile Nazi. This is an enjoyable, historical drama with no real flaws, but nothing that really makes it stand out as memorable. There are some tonal changes which feel awkward (moments of levity during a very dramatic incident) and the overall vibe is that this is a very “Hollywood-ized”, cleaned up version of the true life events. Doesn’t mean its a bad film; its just not an awards caliber type movie with the pedigree of actors and subject matter involved. This is a lot less like Spielberg’s Munich and more akin to a feature like 2010’s “The Debt” with Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain – both films with similar subject matter as Operation Finale. In the end, the performances by Kingsley and Isaac are the highlights, and you are likely to be entertained by this film. Just don’t expect to see it walking away with awards at the end of the year.