When World War II ended, and everyone began to realize the horror
of the Holocaust, the top Nazi leaders had already killed themselves:
Hitler, Goring, and Himmler. There
were rumors about others escaping to Argentina, but nobody knew where they
were, or what identities they had assumed.
Until an unlikely romance bloomed in Buenos Aires,
between two expatriates, Klaus (Joe Alwyn) and Sylvia (Haley Lu
Richardson). They both have
German roots, but Klaus Eichmann doesn't realize Sylvia Hermann is Jewish.
In the course of their romance he brags about his father's Nazi
ranking, then invites her to his home, where she meets a man who
introduces himself as Klaus' uncle, but she notices that Klaus calls him
discrepancy draws her attention, and soon she realizes that the man who
calls himself “Ricardo Klement” is actually Adolf Eichmann.
Through her family connections, the Mossad is contacted, and soon a
team of agents is sent to Argentina to identify and capture the
“Architect of the Holocaust.”
Director Chris Weitz takes us through the Mossad team's careful
planning of exactly how they're going to capture Eichmann, and bring him
to Israel to stand trial for his war crimes.
And capturing him was actually the easy part.
The more difficult assignment was to get him to sign a waiver of
extradition, in which he essentially volunteers to be returned to Israel.
Understandably, he does not wish to be made a “scapegoat,” and
claims that during the War, he was only following orders, like all other
soldiers. Politically, the
Mossad team realizes that there are problems with just extracting Eichmann
without his consent. The
Argentinian government, could, and did, complain about their national
sovereignty being violated. Finally,
one of the Mossad agents, Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaacs) decides to play the
“good cop” with Eichmann: offer
him cigarettes. Give him a
shave. Lead him in some light
exercising. Listen to him talk
about his family (his wife and two sons).
And eventually, Malkin gets Eichmann to sign the papers, but only
if Malkin, in turn, agrees to arrage for Eichmann to see his wife again.
Meanwhile, some of the German expatriates, loosely organized into a
right wing faction that is in sympathy with the Argentinian polizia, are
trying to find the safe house where they believe Eichmann is being
detained. If these two sides
had actually run into each other, the subsequent conflict wouldn't have
been pretty, and wouldn't be easily explained by anybody's government.
The rest, as they say, is history:
Adolf Eichmann is, in fact, flown back to Israel, where he stands
trial in 1961 under the watchful eye of the world's press.
Of course he claims he was only following orders;
nonetheless, he was executed by hanging in 1962, at the age of 56.
Unfortunately, Ben Kingsley is about 20 years too old for this
part. Though his great acting
skill makes us appreciate the slippery intelligence of a man like Adolf
Eichmann, the wig and the hair dye just don't work, especially in an
incarceration environment. Nevertheless,
Director Weitz presents us with some good suspense, especially considering
the fact that we all know what happens before we begin.
It's historically significant because it's a postscript to the
Holocaust, the one chapter in history which we should never forget.