For a review of “Operation Finale,”
The perfume of prestige and the promise of white- knuckle thrills announce the arrival of “Operation Finale” before the movie has even begun. Two big stars — Oscarwinner Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac — face off as fugitive Nazi Adolph Eichmann and Mossad agent Peter Malkin, in the true story of the 1960 capture of Eichmann by a team of Israeli operatives in Argentina. It is there that Eichmann, the mastermind behind the Nazis’ extermination policies, has been secretly living for 10 years, under the alias Ricardo Klement and the cover of a job in a Mercedes factory outside Buenos Aires. Code-named Operation Finale, Malkin’s mission was not an assassination, but an extraction, from under the noses of Buenos Aires’ community of expat German anti-Semites and their Argentine sympathizers. (“What must we make of the Jew?” asks a leader of the group at one gathering, early in the film. “Soap!” shout his followers, who are comfortable enough not to hide their virulent bigotry.) Sounds dramatic, no? And for a while, it is. Opening with a short 1954 prologue that shows Malkin botching an earlier assignment — to demonstrate that the character is in need of redemption — the film quickly jumps to the tense preparations for, and carrying-out of, Eichmann’s capture. But the hard part begins only after Eichmann has been removed to a safe house, where he must be held — although “babysat” is probably a better word — until Malkin’s team can persuade him to sign an affidavit affirming his true identity. This portion of the story — the bulk of the film — contains the real cat-and-mouse game, as Malkin and Eichmann engage in a dance of dueling intellects, with the two men debating the nature of evil, justice and truth itself. Unfortunately, whatever steam has been built up during the more compelling first act slowly dissipates under the overly talky, onthe-nose conclusion, despite some modest suspense ginned up as Argentine authorities get close to discovering the safe house. “Operation Finale” has been called the thinking man’s Nazi retribution movie, and that’s not inaccurate. But in a screenplay (by British writer Matthew Orton) that brings no new or profound insights into Eichmann’s psyche, the film’s cerebral leanings make for a mostly limp and un-thrilling enterprise — more late-night argument between freshman philosophy students than either thought exercise or action film. Instead, the film by director Chris Weitz (“A Better Life”) feels dutiful and utilitarian. It’s neither great nor terrible, neither stylish nor unsexy, but exists in some serviceable compromise between both extremes. As the German-born Malkin, Isaac is merely adequate in a role that gives him plenty of baggage, but he doesn’t go anywhere with it. Malkin’s spotty reputation as an agent, coupled with his lack of emotional closure regarding his own family’s history during the Holocaust, seem designed to add complexity and depth to his character but don’t work. Kingsley is more interesting. With its villain, “Operation Finale” tries — at times a bit too hard — to convey the prosaic nature of Eichmann’s crimes, allowing the character plenty of moments in which to argue, as he says in one scene, that he was “merely a cog in a machine chugging its way to Hell.” When Eichmann is asked, in one of several interrogation scenes, whether he was, in fact, the “architect of the ‘Final Solution,’ “Eichmann attempts to convey either indifference or humor. “We loved nicknames,” he says with a shrug, adding, without apparent irony or a sense of remorse, that he was mocked as the “little Jew” as a boy, a reference to his dark complexion. The enigmatic, contradictory bad guy is always inherently provocative. The film’s hero, on the other hand, needs all the help he can get. To that end, “Operation Finale” changes the gender of one character - the Mossad doctor who administered the powerful narcotic haloperidol to Eichmann to incapacitate him - from male to female, casting Mélanie Laurent as Malkin’s former lover (and the team’s medical expert). This and other concessions to Hollywood, not history, smack of cynical calculation. In the end, “Operation Finale” misses its aim — to illuminate the banality of evil — by that much, as the TV spy Maxwell Smart used to say. Instead, what it illustrates is the film’s lack of faith in its source material. “Operation Finale,” Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for brutality and adult themes. Running time: 118 minutes.
Release dates shouldn’t necessarily be a metric for evaluating films, and yet, sometimes it’s the best way to contextualize what’s going on with a movie. “Kin,” a dark and confounding young adult thriller, written and directed by Jonathan and Josh Baker, co-written by Daniel Casey, is best described as a prototypical “August movie.” Not fitting into one genre or another, too dark to appeal to kids and too juvenile to draw adults, it’s seemingly been dumped in that no-man’s land between blockbuster and awards season. “Kin” is based on a short film by the brothers Baker called “Bag Man.” It follows a 14-year-old boy from Detroit, Eli (Myles Truitt, in his first feature film role), as he goes on the lam with his adopted ex-con brother, Jimmy (Jack Reynor). Eli’s brought along a mysterious gun, a large, box-shaped weapon he picked up in an abandoned building while scrapping to make extra money. In pursuit is Taylor (James Franco), a psychopathic drug dealer out for vengeance after a robbery leaves both his brother Dutch (Gavin Fox) and Eli and Jimmy’s father Hal (Dennis Quaid) dead. Franco’s Taylor is essentially his character Alien from “Spring Breakers” with several hard years on him, cornrows chopped into a ratty mullet, sporting a moth-eaten sweater and many misguided tattoos, signifying his impulsive and reckless nature. Eli and Jimmy, en route to Lake Tahoe, one of their dead mother’s favorite places, are also being followed by a mysterious pair of futuristic soldiers on a mission to repossess the weapon. Eli discovers how useful the “ray gun” can be when they find themselves in a brawl at a Midwestern strip club. The gun shoots blasts that can vaporize anything. After escaping evil club owner Lee (Romano Orzari), dancer Milly (Zoë Kravitz) joins the brothers on the run. “Kin” is a movie about the bond between brothers, whether biological or forged in a blended family. Although the circumstances of Jimmy and Eli’s road trip aren’t ideal, Jimmy’s happy for the time he gets to spend with his little brother, on the cusp of manhood, after so many years in jail. But the reunion is contrasted with Taylor’s rage and grief at the loss of his own brother. That explodes into a tsunami of blood and death as he and his posse storm the Nevada police station where Eli and Jimmy have been detained, while liberally, graphically murdering many police officers. The violence in the film’s third act is shocking, and it strains both the suspension of disbelief and the laughable, honestly shameful PG-13 rating. Once again, “Kin” proves to not be one thing or the other, defying any clear genre or demographic boundaries. It’s not a blockbuster or a heroic young adult tale (though a last-minute button indicates at least the film thinks it is). It’s just a devastatingly sad and terrible story about two brothers who make bad choices, suffer the consequences and lose the last shreds of family they have left. No amount of 11th hour twists, reveals or bigger ideas can shake that inescapable feeling of dread and sorrow. “Kin,” a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 for gun violence and intense action, suggestive material, language, thematic elements and drinking. Running time: 102 minutes.
The new Lionsgate release “Kin” stars, from left, Zoe Kravitz, Jack Reynor and Myles Truitt.