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Front Row at the Movies

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Shirrel Rhoades

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Shirrel Rhoades

Friday, August 31, 2018

“Operation Finale”

For those of you too young to remember, Otto Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi lieutenant colonel who played a major role in the Holocaust. He was responsible for rounding up Jews and sending them to extermination camps. One of history’s villains.

But justice is sometimes thwarted ... at least initially. After Germany’s defeat in 1945, Eichmann escaped, eventually fleeing to Argentina in 1950 using false papers. His family joined him there.

However, Israel’s relentless Mossad tracked Eichmann down in 1960 and captured him in what was codenamed Operation Finale. They brought him back to Israel where he was put on trial for crimes against humanity. He was convicted and executed by hanging in 1962.

The story of Eichmann’s capture is being told in a new film called (what else?) “Operation Finale.”

Here, Oscar Isaacs (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” “Inside Llewyn Davis”) portrays Peter Malkin, a member of the Israeli team that tracked down the mass murderer. Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi,” “Sexy Beast”) is cast as Eichmann.

Peter Zvi Malkin, who died in 2005, was a legend in the intelligence world, eventually becoming Chief of Operations for the Mossad. He played a major role in the capture of Israel Bar, a Soviet mole who had penetrated the highest levels of the Israeli government. However, his most famous mission took place on May 11, 1960, when he and a team of Mossad agents captured Eichmann in Argentina.

Eichmann and his family lived in a house on Garibaldi Street in San Fernando, Buenos Ares. His son Klaus was dating a girl, whose father turned him in.

The Mossad sent a Shin Bet chief interrogator to identify the war criminal. However, Argentina had a history of turning down extradition requests for Nazi criminals, so once ID had been confirmed, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion decided that Eichmann should be captured rather than extradited. An eight-man team was sent to snatch him.

The rest is history.

Directed by Chris Weitz (“The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” “The Golden Compass”), the “Operation Finale” script by Matthew Orton seems more like a TV movie than a big-screen epic — like, say, Steven Spielberg’s “Munich.”

Before Eichmann’s execution, the perpetrator of “The Final Solution” said he would “leap laughing into the grave because the feeling that he had 5 million people on his conscience would be for him a source of extraordinary satisfaction.”

Evil is evil.

And Malkin has been called “one of the greatest figures ever in the history of the Mossad” and “an extraordinary secret warrior.”

Heroes are heroes.

Shirrel Rhoades is the movie reviewer for Cooke Communications North Carolina. Contact him at srhoades@aol.com.

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