WASHINGTON — “Operation Finale,” the new movie about the Israeli Mossad’s capture of Adolf Eichmann, portrays the former Nazi leader as a family man living a quiet life in 1960s Argentina.
“We would like to kind of dismiss these perpetrators of the Holocaust as ‘the other,’ as Nazis and stock villains and Germany as a unique scenario, Germany in the 1930s” director Chris Weitz tells Variety‘s “PopPolitics” podcast on SiriusXM. “But I think one of the theses of the film is that the people who perpetrated these crimes were normal people, perhaps ambitious, perhaps careerists, in Eichmann’s case very manipulative, but people nonetheless. We have to face up to the possibility that in the right situations we ourselves might be involved in something like this.”
Oscar Isaac plays Peter Malkin, the secret agent who physically nabbed Eichmann, portrayed by Ben Kingsley, and later is assigned to guard him in a hideout as they wait for a transport back to Israel. Malkin’s sister died in the Holocaust along with other relatives, and some of the key scenes are conversations between Eichmann and Malkin.
“It’s so psychologically fraught, what he had to do, the courage of Peter Malkin to be in that room,” Isaac says. “He was supposed to just be the muscle. He wasn’t supposed to talk to the guy… His natural curiosity and his unresolved issues that he had, because he exemplified what was happening for a lot of people at that time in Israel, which was just don’t talk about it. Move forward. We have to build a nation, move on.”
He continued, “But as we all know, it just stays there. It festers. …But then when confronted with this pure evil, and seeing that it is just this sad guy. It is almost more shameful that this is the person that did this to our people, not some mythical demon.”
Weitz and Isaac attended a recent screening of “Operation Finale” at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.
“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety’s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-noon PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.