There is an art to crafting a successful nail-biter, especially one where we already know the ending because it’s based on something that actually happened. Think of “All the President’s Men” and “Munich” and how we could hardly catch our breath from the tension on the screen. Alas, “Operation Finale” is not a particularly successful nail-biter; in fact, it can be downright dull at times. What a waste, because it’s a great story—a heroic one: By 1960, the major players in Germany’s extermination of more than 10 million had either committed suicide or been brought to trial at Nuremberg. Only Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, was left, thought to be hiding in Argentina. The story centers on tracking him down, kidnapping him, then spiriting him back to Israel for a trial.
The problem begins with the script by Matthew Orton, which has too many pronouncements about how very important this undertaking is, plus moments of suspense that feel more artificial than integral to the plot. The direction by Chris Weitz is perfectly fine. And Ben Kingsley, as Eichmann, gives his all, a fine and nuanced version of a monster who is a dedicated family man, but it’s not enough. Oscar Isaac (as Mossad agent Peter Malkin) feels anemic in their scenes together. Isaac can be intense and charismatic—”Inside Llewyn Davis” and “Ex Machina” come to mind—but here, he doesn’t seem to have much going on beneath the surface. One wonders if he’s simply better at playing people we’re not sure we like. The supporting cast is excellent but they can’t make us sit at the edges of our seats if they don’t have enough to work with. Sad to say, they do not.
If you happen to like novels by Nick Hornby, fast-paced dialogue, British wit and oddball characters, not to mention Chris O’Dowd’s comic timing, Rose Byrne’s versatility, and Ethan Hawke’s gift of seeming completely natural in every role he plays, then “Juliet, Naked” is for you. It certainly was for me; I left the screening with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. It centers on what happens to a long-term relationship that’s going nowhere when a singer (who had a small cult following back in the 1990s but then dropped out of sight) enters the picture. Along the way, a woman who needs to break out of her current, stifling life is given a chance to do just that. It’s a funny little film but it also has moments of profundity, such as wishing for do-overs when life makes that impossible. In case you can’t tell, I recommend it highly. The sound track is terrific, by the way. I might just go out and buy it.
In “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” now on Amazon Prime, we have the by-now-iconic CIA analyst Ryan played by yet another fine figure of a man and a pretty decent actor, too—John Krasinski, so riveting this year in “A Quiet Place.” His Ryan is physically strong, brainy and a bit of a Boy Scout. As such, he doesn’t come off as having the depth of Alec Baldwin or Harrison Ford in the role. But this eight-parter has a whole new storyline, one not based on one of Clancy’s books, and it’s a good one. Co-created and written by Carleton Cruse of “Lost” fame, I got hooked right away. While it concerns the threat of a new group of terrorists trying to destroy the West, what was of particular interest was the focus on the Arab leader and his story. We see him as a child under attack, we understand his adult rage, his tunnel-vision, witness him as a husband and father, a human being. The wholesale slaughter of innocents on either side is never okay, but the enemy is not a monster in his own eyes, and that aspect of the story is fascinating.