The Debt (2010)
Director: John Madden
Writer: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan
Based On: “The Debt” or “Ha-Hov” (2007 Film) By: Assaf Bernstein, Ido Rosenblum
Starring: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Wilkinson,
Country: United States
Language: English, German, Ukrainian
MPAA Rating: R
Time: 114 minutes
Genre: Drama, Thriller
USA Release: 8/31/2011
On DVD (USA): 12/6/2011
After being pushed back almost a year many wondered if this film would pack the punch it was hoping too, well it’s safe to say it totally does. With a cast of great new comers as well as veterans, “The Debt” brings audiences a smart, stylish thriller that delivers exciting edge of your seat entertainment. Making this one of not only the summer’s but the year’s best films.
“The Debt” is a story about 3 Mossad agents and the story about their mission together. It follows in the present of 1997 at a book launch dinner for Rachel Singer’s daughter Sarah Gold who wrote a book about her mother (Rachel, played in the present by Helen Mirren), father (Stefan Gold, played in the present by Tom Wilkinson) and David Peretz’s (played in the present by Ciarán Hinds) mission back in 1966. It tells of their mission to go after Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) known to many as “The Surgeon of Birkenau” because of the disgusting medical experiments he did on Jews during World War II. Their mission was to first identify him then capture him to bring back to Israel for trial. During that time their cover was that Rachel and David (played in the past by Jessica Chastain & Sam Worthington) were a young married couple trying to have a baby, as they found out that Vogel was still working in the medical field under an assumed name. Rachel having to go in alone and take pictures to confirm it was him. After her doing so, the 3 young agents set up a plan of how to smuggle him out of Germany.
Many critics have praised this as something we should see more of coming from this genre, and I totally have to agree. “The Debt” based on the 2007 film “Ha-Hov” which I unfortunately haven’t been able to come across (although I heard that The Sundance Channel has played it, but I don’t have that channel) to be able to compare a little to. That aside, this is definitely one of the best films of the year, the directing is done in a very stylish way although the subject matter and location are gritty. The transitions between the past and present are done very well and shouldn’t confuse you. And it’s pacing unlike “Contagion” is top notch, with exhilarating action sequences. The writing is as fantastic as the directing, delivering such a action packed spy thriller that your holding your breath until the end. Smartly written it has curve balls around every corner, not only with the story itself but also with the characters. These characters are on what seems to be a intense mission but pretty cut and dry since they have a plan, but when problems start to occur with the mission and themselves, you question how are they possibly going to pull this off. The characters are sometimes as mysterious and secretive as the story, they are all working together but really don’t know anything about one another other than their name and how they were trained. Ciarán Hinds’ performance in this is almost unmentionable as we only see him in the beginning and then a few times in flashbacks. His younger counterpart played by Sam Worthington does a great job of really hiding his emotions. He is set on a mission and that is the only thing he is forced on, and he is bound determined to have this mission go off without a hitch. Worthington gives a strong performance, delivering all of those things I just mentioned as well as great chemistry with his fellow agents. He along with the character Stefan bring the right amount of hostility, but also does show compassion when need be.
As for Tom Wilkinson who played Stefan Gold in the present, he almost seems to have grown more sinister since the mission 30 years ago. He had a hot temper then and continued to have it grow as he got older. Wilkinson did a pretty good job although I found it weird that his accent was completely different than the younger 1966 him, almost as if he didn’t want to use one. Marton Csokas who played 1966 Stefan Gold did a great job, and like I said earlier brought the right amount of hostilely to the character. Being leader he was very strict and of course goal oriented, and when the mission begins to fall apart he is quick to loose his temper. Although Helen Mirren is looked upon as like the star of the movie, her role really isn’t as big as you might think, yes out of the present 1997 cast she has the biggest role, but for the whole movie it’s relatively small. I’d love to completely praise Mirren on her performance but with her constant accent drop it’s a little hard to, she plays the character with a lot of determination and skill, and even with the one imperfection she still delivers a great performance which is what you expect, it’s just maybe not her strongest. Jessica Chastain on the other hand was entirely the best things about this film, giving the strongest performance, many should remember her from the summer’s mega successes “The Help” and between the two and the countless other films coming out this year, 2011 is definitely the year of Jessica Chastain. Her character seems weak just because she is a women, but she is very strong and like anyone does have some weaknesses. Between her fellow agents she is risking the most as she is the one getting the closes to the target. Chastain’s performance like in “The Help” was outstanding, she captures your attention the moment she enters a scene and you cheer her on the entire time she is on the screen.
To sum up, “The Debt” is a rare film to find at the end of the summer months, but even with it’s release being pushed back a year, it delivers a brilliant thriller that will have you running out to buy the book, if only it had been based on one. But even without a book to dive into, it’s outstanding performances most by Jessica Chastain and exciting story will have you back inline to see it all over again.