Chris Weitz didn’t need much convincing to oversee Operation Finale.
Not only was English writer Matthew Orton’s script “great,” but the story of Mossad spies, played by Oscar Isaac, Melanie Laurent and Nick Kroll, tracking down and capturing Ben Kingsley’s Adolf Eichmann in Argentina “hit a button” for the filmmaker, too.
For those of you that don’t know, Eichmann was one of the major architects of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, who escaped to South America after the Second World War.
“I grew up with all of these subjects,” Weitz explained to me recently over the phone. “My dad wrote books about Nazis. He was an historian as well as a refugee and a veteran. So it fit into my wheelhouse.”
But there was also a more pressing and timely reason why Weitz wanted to sink his teeth into “Operation Finale.”
“I think that we are facing the rise of nationalists and basically fascists and racist movements around the world. And what this story indicated to me is that, we like to think that Nazi Germany was a unique scenario.”
“In that it is not only psychopaths and sadists that committed these crimes. But actually it was theoretically normal people, who loved their families, were good at their jobs, but were very ambitious, very careerist, very opportunistic, who committed these crimes.”
“It takes people like that, not just maniacs, to make something terrible like the Holocaust happen.”
So was Weitz trying to normalize Eichmann in “Operation Finale”?
“I don’t think he really needs normalisation. In his own way he was normal. Left to his own devices, he’d have probably become the guy that he ended up as. Which was a guy working at a Mercedes Benz factory, with a wife and kids.”
“But what happens when demagogues use racial hatred to gain political power is that all kinds of people get caught up in it.”
With “Operation Finale,” though, Weitz was intent on making the film as entertaining as possible for his audience, while still sneaking his message through.
“I wanted to make a suspense thriller, in terms of all the bells and whistles and the genre tappings that you want. So that I could make a gripping kind of yarn.”
“Also to sneak in as much meaning as I possibly could to the story. I wanted to get stuff that was really relevant to me in there.”
“I wanted to say stuff about living in a post-truth world, where everything appears to be debatable and arguable. Everyone is trying to present their own version of the truth. A lot of the battle between Oscar’s character and Sir Ben’s character is about that.”
You can see if Chris Weitz achieves that with “Operation Finale” when the film is released on August 29.