Review: In ‘June Zero,’ There Are Many Ways to See the Past

In 1960, Israeli agents smuggled the Nazi official Adolf Eichmann from Buenos Aires to Jerusalem to stand trial for his role in the Holocaust. Rather than focus on the operation, or on Eichmann’s notorious defense, “June Zero” thoughtfully braids three stories that relate to the events around Eichmann’s execution by hanging in 1962.

Jake Paltrow’s film, which premiered at festivals in 2022, might sound like an exercise in hagiography: Drawing on actual accounts, it’s framed by the tale of David, a plucky Israeli teenager who finds himself involved in Eichmann’s fate. But the shifting story, written by Paltrow and Tom Shoval, complicates the act of commemoration and dwells on the moral quandaries and uncomfortable resonances that result from the events.

David (Noam Ovadia, a nervy newcomer) is pushed to work in a factory after trouble in school. His boss, Shlomi (Tzahi Grad), a brutal former soldier, is secretly custom-building an oven for the government to cremate Eichmann’s remains, and their plan is played in the movie for unease as much as for suspense.

At the same time, Eichmann’s guard in jail, Haim (Yoav Levi), nearly goes mad from his assignment to protect the Nazi. The spotlight then leaps to Poland, where a tour guide (Tom Hagi), a Holocaust survivor, spars with the trip organizer (Joy Rieger), weighing the necessary rituals of remembrance against the risks of being trapped by the past.

Concluding with David’s role in Eichmann’s disposal, “June Zero” sticks to its characters’ specific experiences of these events. But the resourceful narrative, with some surprising grace notes, tends to invite questioning and reflection.

June Zero
Not rated. In Hebrew and Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. In theaters.

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