Film Review: The Wife and Operation Finale

A wife’s ambitions thwarted, and the charming face of evil


There’s been much richly deserved Oscar chatter about Glenn Close in this highly enjoyable adaptation of Meg Wolitzer’s novel of the same name. Close stars as Joan Castleman, a loving, supportive wife to a narcissistic, unfaithful, literary success. Castleman sacrificed her own writing ambitions in order to devote herself to him and their family. But a trip to Stockholm, where Joe (Jonathan Pryce) is to receive his Nobel Prize, seems to stir up the full realisation of what she has lost by living in his shadow.

Close is mesmerising: ambiguous, self-controlled and charming. Outwardly, Joan appears happy in her supporting role and she is, says Joe, the love of his life. When told she can go shopping as part of the visitors’ itinerary, her reserve speaks volumes. “Don’t paint me as a victim, I’m much more interesting than that,” she tells Nathanial Bone (Christian Slater), a persistent journalist keen to write Joe’s biography, who has his own theories about the Castlemans’ marriage. Flashbacks to the late 1950s reveal why Joan, a former student-turned-lover of Joe’s, was unable to pursue her intended career.

Although largely set in the early 1990s, The Wife says much that is relevant about the role of women and how they can still be defined through men’s achievements. The ending may be disappointing but Close makes this entertaining drama unmissable.

‘The Wife’ is on general release from today

Operation Finale (12A)


Hannah Arendt’s renowned phrase, “the banality of evil” resonates throughout Chris Weitz’s stylised, reasonably absorbing but overly long historical drama. It recounts the complicated capture by Mossad and Shin Bet of Nazi war criminal, Adolf Eichmann (Ben Kingsley), in 1960, in Buenos Aires, and his transfer to Israel where he subsequently stood trial.

“If you succeed, we deny the world the chance to let Eichmann’s murderous edicts to sink into obscurity. For the first time in our history, we will judge our executioner…” Ben Gurion (Simon Russell Beale) tells the operatives, including agent Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) who wants to redeem himself after a failed previous operation. Memories of the Holocaust hang heavy and there is credible debate concerning the ethics of their mission. The portrayal of Eichmann (played to great effect by Kingsley) as an ordinary man, who oozes charm and humanity emphasises the many facets of evil — Eichmann never denied the Holocaust but argued that he was merely following orders.

As the agents wait in a safe-house for transport, Malkin tries to get Eichmann to sign a document, required by the Argentine authorities, to agree to his deportation. Particularly compelling is this focus on the uneasy, psychological complexities of the relationship between captor and prisoner.

Despite its powerful subject and strong performances throughout, with a cast that includes Israeli actors, Ohad Knoller and Lior Raz (Fauda) as bullish Mossad chief, Isser Harel, the film is weak on dramatic tension, peppered with cliché and ultimately fails to convince.

‘Operation Finale’ launches on Netflix on 3 October

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