Is there an expiration date on fixing past mistakes? What would you do to cover up or correct any errors in judgment? That’s the premise of the new film The Debt, now in theatres, which had mixed results.
The Debt followed three Mossad agents who took part in a mission to capture a Nazi war criminal (Jesper Christensen) to stand trial in 1965 Israel. Young agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) was on her first major mission and was promised by her fellow agents David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stephan Gold (Marton Csokas) that it would be an easy one. Unfortunately, they were wrong. Rachel had to play nice with the target who was hiding in Berlin as a doctor even though she was secretly terrified. The three agents also had to deal with a brewing love triangle between them. Rachel and David were attracted to each other, but David was afraid to make the first move. Out of disappointment, she turned to Stephan and ended up getting pregnant as a result. Sadly, that wasn’t the only complication. The mission itself was flawed from the start, which led the agents to make a choice that has haunted them for three decades. It’s up to the retired Rachel (Helen Mirren) to do what Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) and David (Ciaran Hinds) couldn’t do. Is she up to the task or will she fall just short of completing her final assignment?
In terms of plot, The Debt had plenty to spare, but it was hindered by the plot being told mostly out of sequence. It wasn’t confusing but it was hard to root for the agents when some of the backstory was thrown by the wayside. The movie should’ve been told in sequence where either the past got the primary focus or the present should’ve been the focal point. In the end, the 1965 story portion got the better end of the stick while the present day material was rather disappointing. Due to this setback, Mirren and Wilkinson’s scenes lacked a proper place in the film. The interaction between the actors seemed more bittersweet than memorable. Another issue was the mismatched casting of the young and older David and Stephan. Despite the actors’ best efforts, it just didn’t seem to match up as a whole, especially with Csokas and Wilkinson being Stephan.
The film’s most memorable performances came from Mirren, Chastain and Worthington. Mirren was the only one to escape relatively unscathed from the present day half of the film because she made Rachel more than the sum of her sins. She was mixture of wisdom and girlish fear. One who was still torn between her love for David and her loyalty to Stephan. On Mirren, Rachel’s scar seemed to be a reminder of what she couldn’t do back then and what she needed to do now no matter what. For the flashbacks, Chastain and Worthington had a strong chemistry as lovers who never really stood a chance. Chastain has proven to be a force to be reckoned with this summer in this film and two others (The Help and The Tree of Life). She’s someone that has a bright future ahead of her if plays her cards right. Chastain made her Rachel the perfect compliment to Mirren’s version by giving her the same strength and vulnerability that never left her. The film’s real surprise was Worthington who went beyond his usual action film leading man to portray the ultimate anti-hero who never got the girl or over her. It was heartbreaking to watch him the leave the woman he loved due to circumstances beyond his, and the audience’s, control. In the end, The Debt is definitely worth seeing regardless of the dark subject matter.
Verdict: A decent story with an excellent cast that was tainted by a flawed execution.
Movie Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: R
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)