Classy and exciting
Excellent acting, screenplay and cinematography combine in this remake of Hahov (2007).
The arc of story is deepened with both mature and young versions of Mossad agents Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain), David Peretz (Ciaran Hinds and Sam Worthington), and Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson and Marton Csokas).
The story first unfolds in 1997 Tel Aviv. Rachel and Stephan’s daughter Sarah has written a book about her parents’ role in a heroic mission. Concern marks Rachel’s face at a book party and later during a television appearance.
Haunted by spy mission
The real action begins in 1965. The agents plan to capture Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) and bring him to justice. With all the urgency of young patriots seeking to make history, they prepare every detail.
Mirren and Chastain provide The Debt’s moral center. Both are stellar and memorable. It is a real treat to see their work in tandem as the film explores truth and honor.
As Rachel faces a crisis of conscience, Mirren is precise and soulful. When a shameful secret emerges, she is forced to return to service.
Revenge not sweet
Fear and mourning don’t stop the mother and grandmother Rachel. She’s smart, gutsy and angry. Finally, she has a change of heart. Mirren fascinated me until the very last scene.
Prolific Chastain (excellent in The Tree of Life and The Help) is intense, passionate and athletic. Soon a love triangle develops as she lives in close quarters with David and Stephan.
Each agent has been damaged by the Holocaust in some way. David lost his entire family.
The team confirms that Vogel has changed his name and is a practicing gynecologist in East Berlin. Young Rachel’s visit to his office is sure to become a classic scene.
Capturing Vogel in broad daylight is suspenseful, but moving him to Israel proves difficult. With Nazi soldiers on high alert, the team hijacks a truck near a train station. Complications arise.
Award winners Mirren and Wilkinson set the bar high. Hinds makes the most of his tragic, brief appearance. Csokas brings young Stephan to life with swagger and sex appeal. Worthington (Avatar) sensitively portrays the deeply wounded David.
Called the “surgeon of Birkenau,” Vogel’s character seems to be based on Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele conducted human experiments during World War II, including changing childrens’ eye color. This caused blindness in many, a fact mentioned in the film.
“I knew we’d have to pay.”
A huge scar on Rachel’s right cheek seems to symbolize Israel’s search for justice and healing.
The Debt was adapted from the original movie by screenwriters Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan.
Madden (Shakespeare in Love; Proof) does a superb job with sustained suspense and riveting action. His film is intellectually satisfying and heartfelt. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like The Debt, you might enjoy: Incendies.
The Debt 2010 / R / 1 hour, 51 min
Cast Overview: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Jesper Christenson, Marton Csokas, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Romi Aboulafia
Director: John Madden
Genre: Thriller, Drama