Film Review: The Debt

So with plenty of time to waste over this beautiful Labor Day weekend, I thought to myself, what a perfect time for a movie! While most people enjoyed BBQs and frisbees, I hibernated in a dark cinema and saw The Debt. Not exactly an upbeat, holiday weekend movie, but never mind.

A brief synopsis: The Debt is a tightly-paced thriller set in 1965. Three young Mossad agents are deployed to East Berlin to capture and return the Surgeon of Birkenau (Vogel) to Israel, where he will be put on trial for his role in the Holocaust. All goes to plan, until he tries to escape and Rachel, one of the agents, is forced to kill him. Mission accomplished? Well, not so much. Thirty years later, her daughter is publishing a supposedly accurate book of these heroic events, but as we quickly learn, not everything is as it seems and the agents have been covering up a far bigger secret than the world could imagine.

Review: Directed by John Madden, The Debt is a thought-provoking and tense film, which focuses more on the characters than most current action-packed thrillers. It successfully manages to capture the claustrophobia they experience as they are forced to live, feed, bathe, and take care of a man who lustfully killed many people they loved. In fact, I was more moved by the scenes in which very little happened and Vogel’s words chilled the room than the actual action sequences.

Everyone gave strong performances, but I think The Debt belongs to this summer’s ubiquitous star, Jessica Chastain, who can not only be seen in this film but also in The Help. With such a strong emotional range, she is proving to be a long-lasting talent. She successfully managed to portray her character’s flaws in such a subtle and nuanced way that you felt for her as she tackled this monumental and (seemingly) difficult task. Another special mention must be given to Helen Mirren, who gave her usual stellar performance as Jessica Chastain’s older counterpart dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy.

All in all, this is not a fun movie, but one worth watching. While it is a smartly constructed thriller, it is the actors rather than the story that make this a film to watch.

Image via: Collider

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