At the Movies: The Debt

No, I don’t know why this is opening today. I just review ’em, I don’t schedule ’em. On the plus side, since they’re not screening ‘Apollo 18’ and that was the only weekend release I was interested in, I guess I get Friday off.

Summer movie season is over. Time to put away the superheroes and giant transforming robots and focus on more serious fare — like spy movies.

“The Debt” is a pretty decent thriller although it makes that near-fatal mistake that many thrillers do of going one step too far and nearly veering into the ridiculous. But that’s the end, let’s start at the beginning.

A remake of a 2007 Israeli film, “The Debt” centers on three young Mossad agents who were sent to East Berlin to capture a Nazi war criminal in 1966. The film moves back and forth in time between 1966 and 1997. The agents in question are Rachel (Jessica Chastain/Helen Mirren), Stefan (Marton Csokas/Tom Wilkinson) and David ( Sam Worthington/Ciarán Hinds).

Stefan is the team leader with plans to rise in the organization. David is intense and quiet, unable to express his feelings for Rachel. They share a small apartment where they plot to capture Vogel (Jesper Christensen) and bring him back to Israel.

The plan is to sneak the former Nazi onto a train but the plan goes awry, leaving the trio with no way to escape East Berlin and an unwanted houseguest trapped with them in the apartment. A houseguest who’s very good at playing mind games when he’s not gagged.

Eventually the trio make their way home where they are celebrated as heroes. Thirty years pass and a dark secret that the now-retired agents have been keeping all this time threatens to come to light. Rachel is forced to get back in the game in order to keep the past buried.

Director John Madden has crafted a very engaging spy tale. The suspense builds throughout and the twists and turns are clever and mostly unexpected. It helps to have such a fine cast and everyone delivers on the acting side.

Did it work for me? As I mentioned up top, the film does go a bit too far by the end, complete with senior citizen knife fight, but it’s not enough to completely derail an otherwise entertaining thriller.




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