Operation Finale’s Strange Relationship With Inglourious Basterds

Melanie Laurent Sitting at a table in operation finale

In 2009, Quentin Tarantino released one of the most shocking films of all time about World War II, weaving an intense, fun, fictional tale about a plot to kill the key members of the Third Reich in Nazi Germany with Inglorious Basterds. It was a film that not only ultimately won tons awards and accolades, but also introduced mass audiences to the impressive talents of actress Melanie Laurent. But if you think her role in the war film nine years ago had any connection to her new movie, Operation Finale, then you would be entirely mistaken, as I recently learned from the film's director, Chris Weitz:

I thought she was fantastic in Inglourious Basterds, and I really enjoyed that movie - which is strange in relation to our movie because in some ways it's a movie about movies. I know that Melanie was very careful about deciding to do this movie because she'd been offered so many World War II stories after Inglourious Basterds, and avoided it. She was ready to approach this character, which was great. Myself, I wasn't trying to put any spin on that character in this movie. If anything I sort of tried to clear my mind of that portrayal.

Unlike Inglourious Basterds, Operation Finale is a film based on true events, centering on the attempt by Israeli Mossad agents to extract Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust, from his home in Argentina after the war. Melanie Laurent's role in the movie is very different from her Quentin Tarantino part, playing an anesthesiologist instead of a theater owner seeking vengeance, and apparently that isn't a mistake. There was a strong awareness among Chris Weitz and Laurent that there would be comparisons drawn between the two features, and the director went as far as to actively try and not think about the 2009 hit when collaborating with her.

Of course, there are some very extreme differences between Operation Finale and Inglorious Basterds, starting with its relationship to reality and actual history, so it makes every bit of sense that Chris Weitz wouldn't have seen it as a reference. And thanks to the threat of typecasting it's understandable that Melanie Laurent spent as long as she did trying to stay away from World War II-related fare. For Weitz, as I learned during an interview earlier this year, it was all about finding the best talent to tell this incredible true story, and Laurent fit the bill.

Just because Inglourious Basterds wasn't being loaded into the Blu-ray player doesn't mean that Chris Weitz didn't have some other cinematic influences, though. I specifically asked about the movies he watched that influenced his work on Operation Finale, and there was one title specifically that he name dropped: Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist from 1970, based on the novel by Alberto Moravia centering on the rise and terror of fascism in Italy during the early 20th century. Said the director,

One important movie to me for this one was The Conformist, and it's preoccupation with the perennial appeal of fascism and its look. That one is probably the one that was most in my mind.

Operation Finale, which co-stars Oscar Isaac, Sir Ben Kingsley, and Nick Kroll in addition to Melanie Laurent, is out in theaters now.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.