The Hippo


Jul 5, 2020









 Operation Finale (PG-13)

Israeli intelligence agents search for Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in early 1960s Argentina in Operation Finale, a suspense movie in the mold of Argo. 
Sylvia Hermann (Haley Lu Richardson) brings Klaus Eichmann (Joe Alwyn), who is, like her, of German ancestry, home to meet her father, Lothar Hermann (Peter Strauss). Klaus’s last name and the details of his family’s life lead Lothar to suspect that, though Klaus claims he lives with an uncle named Ricardo Klement and that his father was a soldier who died in the war, the Hermanns have stumbled on Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), one of the architects of the Holocaust.
After being horrified by a meeting of old Nazis and Argentinean fascists that Klaus brings her to, Sylvia agrees to help verify the identity of Adolf Eichmann. She visits the house where “Klement” lives and is able to draw him outside where members of Israeli intelligence take a photo.
Reasonably certain that they have found Eichmann, the Mossad send a small team to capture Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to stand trial. The team includes Rafi Eitan (Nick Kroll, in a nicely low-key role), interrogator Zvi Aharoni (Michael Aronov), Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) and a doctor, Hanna Elian (Mélanie Laurent), to help sedate the prisoner.
Obstacles include political turmoil in Argentina, where those with sympathies for Eichmann and his fellow travelers have enough power to hide him or keep the Israelis from extraditing him. The plan is to dress Eichmann up as an El Al pilot and sneak him out in a commercial plane, doping him up so he just appears to be a pilot who partied too hard. But, to get El Al to participate, the intelligence team must not just confirm that Klement is, in fact, Eichmann but get him to agree to willingly come to Israel to stand trial.
Aharoni is the official interrogator and initially the only person who is supposed to talk to Eichmann during the week and a half that they have to keep him hidden in Argentina. But soon Malkin is also chatting with him, appealing, as he explains, to Eichmann’s ego and attempting to use Eichmann’s desire to explain himself to history as incentive to get him to agree to go to Israel.
As with most members of the team, the mission is personal for Malkin. He is haunted by thoughts of his sister, Fruma (Rita Pauls), and how she and her children died at the hands of the Nazis. This tragedy has put a weight on his life, as the movie tells it, preventing him from, for one, having the relationship he so clearly desires with Hanna.
A story like this doesn’t need a lot of embellishment, which is perhaps why the movie plays it all fairly straightforward. In tone, the movie reminded me a lot of Argo — the tension is in the moment, not the outcome, which is probably even better-known than with that story. The movie is not quite as skillfully produced as that one; I felt like there was a lot more “telling” happening here and that the events themselves felt padded out with Malkin’s personal life (his sister, his relationship with Hanna) not just to add emotional stakes to the narrative but also to add narrative to the narrative. This padding is fine, I’m just not sure it was totally necessary.
These aren’t fatal flaws, though, and Oscar Isaac’s performance is compelling enough that it pulls you through any of the film’s thinner elements. B
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and related violent images, and for some language, according to the MPAA. Directed by Chris Weitz and written by Matthew Orton, Operation Finale is two hours and two minutes long and distributed by MGM Pictures. 

Searching (R)
Film Reviews by Amy


A father tries to find his missing daughter using her social media contacts in Searching, a movie told through screens.
Computer screens, FaceTime calls, the occasional security cam — these are the frames through which we see the story of Margot Kim (Michelle La). We see her parents, David (John Cho) and Pam (Sara Sohn), set up Margot’s own login to the family computer, a place for her Pokemon drawings, videos of her learning piano and first day of school photos. Through the chronicle created by emails, calendar listings and searches for “how to fight lymphoma” we also trace the course of Pam’s illness through remission and reoccurrence up until we see David placing the photo of her in a card for her funeral. 
In the present day, David and teenage Margot appear to communicate mostly through FaceTime and text, the combo of which is the last contact he has with her when she tells him that she’ll be home late from study group and he reminds her to take out the trash.
The next morning, he sees she tried to call him a few times late the previous night and, after a failed attempt to reach her back, texts her. When he doesn’t hear back from her after hours, he calls her school and finds out she was absent. Then, using his wife’s old contact list, he tries some of her friends, learning eventually that a group of kids has gone on a trip to the mountain. He angrily — writing and then deleting several all-caps-containing texts — awaits the moment the kids return to an area with cell phone reception so he can chew her out. But then her friend calls to say that Margot, though invited on the trip, never showed.
It’s then that David calls the police and Detective Vick (Debra Messing) is on the case. She tells him to look through Margot’s digital life for clues to friends and interests. As much as social media might present a fake, curated view of somebody’s life, so, David soon learns, has the version of the Margot David shares a house with been only a partial view into her life. Who might know more about the real her? David’s brother, Peter (Joseph Lee)? The boy posting dirty comments to her online? The “friend” posting as “fish_n_chips” on the social media app Margot used most?
John Cho gives a good performance as a dad who, initially, is balancing general dad frustration with the desire to be supportive but give his daughter space. Later, he’s just barely holding back fear and rage. More John Cho, please, is my feeling at the end of this movie. Post-Harold & Kumar, I’ve mostly seen Cho in supporting roles. He’s an engaging lead.
Even leaving aside my old lady horror at the dangerous mix of “social media” and “teenagers,” Searching is a solid thriller. The gimmick of having everything shown to us only through the frame of some kind of other screen works, narrowing the information we’re receiving to a point of view that doesn’t belong to any specific character but is just as unreliable. B
Rated PG-13 for thematic content, some drug and sexual references, and for language. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty and written by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, Searching is an hour and 42 minutes long and distributed by Sony. 

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu