The Debt moves
with the hushed confidence and self-satisfied seriousness of an important
movie – and in many ways it is – but that does not halt the film’s
potboiler aspects from shining through. Whether that was intended or not is
probably a question for the filmmakers.
treat their story with deadly seriousness and it is only sometimes worthy of
this gravity. Yes, they take on some explosive subject matters and themes –
the Holocaust, the Mossad, political propaganda, conspiracies, torture,
kidnapping, vengeance, living a lie – but the storyline is not always as
interesting as the debates and arguments that it is
designed to raise.
Perhaps the problem is that the film is just a hair too comparable to Steven
Spielberg’s Munich, which told a similar story with a bit more depth
and believability. (And which also co-starred Ciarán Hinds, who has a small
but very significant role in The Debt too.)
Therefore, thought The Debt is an arresting political thriller and a
very well-made and spectacularly acted film, it is occasionally a bit less
The Debt is
based on an Israeli film called Ha-Hov, and takes a look at a
fictional 1960s Mossad (Israeli Secret Service) plot to capture a
gynecologist which they believe is an escaped Nazi war criminal.
film is broken up into two time periods. The film bops back and forth
between the original mission in 1966 – in which three young officers (Sam
Worthington, Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas) run a partially botched
attempt to kidnap the doctor and smuggle him out of the country.
rest of the film is played out in 1997, when the three operatives (Now
played by Hinds, Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson) have become national heroes
for their exploits, but when a book is coming out about the mission, certain
lies the trio have allowed to be taken as fact start to come back to haunt
an interesting situation, with some fascinating political and personal
ramifications, and yet the film moves a bit too slowly, blunting some of the
actors as young agents have a particularly tricky road to take – a great
deal of their dialogue is in German. Chastain in particular is able to make
for a fascinatingly conflicted heroine.
ramifications for them later are not quite as earth-shaking, though
Wilkinson and Mirren are physically unable to be anything less than
watchable and Hinds makes a great impression in his much smaller role.
However, the biggest problem with The Debt is probably its bad guy.
The doctor, played with hand-wringing evil viciousness by Jesper
Christiansen, seems to be too black and white a portrayal. Yes, the guy is
supposed to be a heartless Nazi, but is it too much to expect some nuance to
the character – like, for example, Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man
or Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List or Christoph Waltz in
Inglourious Basterds? Those men were totally evil Nazis also, but they
were much more complex as people.
The Debt is a
tense and slightly paranoid thriller, even when it does start to drag.
Honestly, the climax is a bit of a let down, but overall The Debt is
well worth seeing.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: August 30, 2011.