Starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson
Directed by John Madden
With the Labor Day weekend fast approaching, many here in the city of Toronto don’t necessarily have what’s playing at the theatres on the brain; they simply want to get in one last long weekend at the cottage before we get into the fall season. Out today in a rare Wednesday release we get a cold war thriller from the director of “Shakespeare In Love” and the writer/director of “X-Men First Class”. It’s time to pay “The Debt”.
“The Debt” an espionage thriller is the powerful story of Rachel Singer (Mirren/Jessica Chastain), a former Mossad agent who endeavored with her team in 1966 (Played by Worthington, Marton Csokas in 1966 and Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson in 1997) to capture and bring to trial a notorious Nazi war criminal, the Surgeon of Birkenau, in a secret Israeli mission that ended with his death on the streets of East Berlin, or did it? All three members of the team have been venerated for years because of their actions and now, 30 years later a man claiming to be the doctor has surfaced. Now in 1997 Rachel must go back to Eastern Europe at great personal risk and considerable personal cost to uncover the truth. Overwhelmed by haunting memories of her younger self and her two fellow agents, the still-celebrated heroine must relive the trauma of those events and confront the debt she has incurred, one over three decades in the making.
“The Debt” is a gritty thriller with a highbrow pedigree that falls a little short of expectations. The screenplay by Matthew Vaughan despite some plot holes and a little chronological juggling that can be a little maddening is solid and entertaining enough despite being historically vague. Characters are well defined and memorable but the overall plot is a bit standard; paint by numbers and slightly predictable despite a neat little twist towards the end. Director John Madden doesn’t overdue it on the effects as the action is tight and neat; very reminiscent of cold war thrillers of the past however far too much weight is given to past events and the world in which these stories are retold is slightly unbelievable. It was all entertaining but historically and factually a little farfetched.
The pedigree of this ensemble cast is rarely matched, and the women in this film truly shine. Jessica Chastain & Helen Mirren both shine in the role of Rachel Singer. Chastain as a young agent on her first mission dealing with the complexities of capturing and keeping a war criminal hostage, her exchanges with the villainous Doktor Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen) were fantastic and perhaps the most memorable part of the movie. Other exchanges in the movie were a bit forced but the high caliber of supporting players it was all still very watchable. Helen Mirren as her older self 30 years later was her reliable self as a woman tortured by the events of the past and the excellent supporting cast gave both of these wonderful actresses enough to play off of in order to tell this story.
“The Debt” was a good but not great cold war thriller that despite a few plot holes was still an entertaining night at the movies, but there’s no real rush and might be worth saving for a cheapie Tuesday night.
3 out of 5 stars.
“The Debt” is playing at theatres across Toronto, click here for details.
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