Operation Finale, Fastidious & Fatal

DATELINE: Kingsley’s Bookend Performance

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The story of the capture of Adolph Eichmann in Argentina in 1960 is now the subject of an extremely compelling docudrama called Operation Finale.

If there is anything outstanding in the story about the man who was dubbed the Architect of the Final Solution and his kidnapping to bring him to trial in Israel, it is that Ben Kingsley (75 years old) plays the 56-year old Eichmann.

This performance comes toward the end of a long career that started with Kingsley playing Gandhi. These are bookend performances of resonance. From the epitome of goodness to the epitome of evil, Kingsley manages to make the banal fascinating and fastidious.

We were reminded of Laurence Olivier who also played much younger in flashbacks when he was in his 70s. Here, Kingsley is done up, perhaps from special computer effects, to look like his forty-something self.

His Eichmann is not a monster but manages to charm his Israeli Mossad captor, Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) in a compelling role playing the main protagonist (as well as film producer) and foil to Kingsley. He is witty with gallows humor hiding his post-traumatic stress over a sister lost in the Holocaust.

Two other notable actors seem to return to the big screen in minor roles:  we were surprised to find king of the TV miniseries of the 1970s, Peter Strauss, as a blind refugee, and that zaftig woman, looking so familiar as Eichmann’s wife, is amazing Greta Scacchi.

The film resonates in many ways, making it more than a precursor to Shaw’s play, the Man in the Glass Booth. We see Eichmann only in that display case for a few fleeting moments at the end of the movie.

 

 

 

 

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Collide with Nicholas Hoult

DATELINE:  Overripe Vintage Villains

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Oh, no, not a noisy car chase movie with Nicholas Hoult? Heavens, spare us. On top of that, the Brit actor again plays an American boy with a surfer accent. Not bad.

He seems to have gone the route of James Franco—two inconsequential movies and one film of substance. Collide seems to be inconsequential, but not so fast.

We rolled our eyes when the first scene of Nick Hoult is his blue eyes in the rear-view mirror as he races down the highway, heading for a metaphoric crash as the voice-over notes how he did it all for love.

We prepared for movieland dismissal. However, something surprised us: suddenly there was Ben Kingsley in one of his patented creepy mobster roles, watching an old John Travolta movie and commenting on the bad acting. Oh?

He started calling Hoult by the movie star name of “Burt Reynolds.”  We were hooked, and then some when Kingsley’s archrival drug kingpin is none other than Shakespearean nasty villain Anthony Hopkins, playing the respectable son of a Nazi interrogator.

All the crime henchmen look like the bearded ladies at the circus. And, one of many chases was on.

It was ridiculous to say the least: Hoult’s girlfriend is on dialysis, but remains a party-girl for his love. Big crime will pay for a kidney transplant. Okay.

The chases and fights do leave Hoult breathless and agonized, which one seldom sees in heroes of this brand of movie. He clearly wanted to perform with the legends of Hopkins and Kingsley—and he manages to more than hold his own.

It’s all over the top, but we stayed around for the credits—never expecting that Hopkins and Kingsley would be billed as “Sir Anthony” and “Sir Ben” and then have stunt doubles listed.

Yeah, we liked this one.

Sexy Beasts & Cherubic Angels

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

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 Director Jonathan Glazer has caught our eye. And so, in reverse order, we have been dipping into the past, working our way up to his first major success. It is a stylish crime story called Sexy Beast.

There are more than a few beasts in this movie, and so you presumably have your choice of which one is the story title. Retired safecracker emeritus, Gal (Ray Winstone) lives luxuriously in Spain in a modern villa, complete with a set of friends and a teenage poolboy.

It seems idyllic—flirtation with the poolboy being the norm, if you ignore the occasional nightmare that features a horned, satanic figure that torments Gal.

If this film wants to be different from caper films, it manages to create a demeanor so cool that it makes you forgive the thick accents of the principals. All starts to unravel when word comes that the worst of the bad, Don Logan (Ben Kingsley), is traveling to see Gal.

There is such a sense of terror about this master criminal that he can hardly be expected to live up to the hype. However, you have not counted on Ben Kingsley giving one of the most intense, horrific, nasty performances of the era.

Kingsley chew scenery and eats other performers. He is meant to steal the movie with his bilious intimidation. Yet, Ian McShane as another sociopathic gangster gives Kingsley as run for the title of most frightening figure.

Gal, fortunately, seems to have a guardian angel in his little poolboy who inspires the courage to stand up to a Grand Guignol performance by Kingsley.

If you want a film experience, Glazer never disappoints. He gives viewers a movie and a half in 90 minutes. Set aside your squeamish prudery. The F-bomb occurs more than once per minute, and the C-bomb seems to drop by every three minutes.

Glazer may not be a one-trick pony, but the director is a startling filmmaker with everything up his sleeve.