On August 31st, Focus Features will be releasing director John Madden‘s The Debt (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1226753/), an espionage thriller told in parallel timelines that didn’t quite pay its dues. You can watch the trailer here: (http://www.imdb.com/video/imdb/vi1506057497/). You realize this is not an easy job, telling you about the film without telling you what you will see so as not to spoil the fun.
Written by Matthew Vaughn (screenplay) and Jane Goldman (screenplay) in too clear a narrative, the parallel timelines were not only intertwined, but parts of it repeated where a couple of images or a few lines of dialogue would have sufficed. Directors (this wasn’t John Madden’s best hour)(Oscar nominated and better known for his Shakespeare In Love, Proof, Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) have to be careful not to insult their audiences by running a lengthy part of a story twice with the intention of us understanding well what the movie is about. It has also been proven that gory details are usually not needed to tell a violent story well and there were too many of them, some totally unnecessary.
At this time of year when many movies come out with experienced actors that, were not for their professionalism and exquisite craft of their characters, would be considered too old to play any part, we are lucky that we have an awards season and the true masters are still necessary and they can come out to shine.
The actors in this film do not need to prove they can act. They can for sure, and their performances attest to the fact. It is a shame that the story, which was evidently a good one, was told poorly.
In the earlier timeline, Sam Worthington as committed David (Avatar, Texas Killing Fields, Terminator Salvation, Clash Of The Titans, Getting Square), Marton Csokas as ruthless Stephan (Kingdom Of Heavem Asylum, Broken English, Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, The Bourne Supremacy, xXx), and Jessica Chastain as unseasoned agent Rachel Singer (The Tree Of Life, The Help, Jolene, and soon to be released, Oblivion and Mama) portray the brash emotion of young, dedicated Mossad post war combatants.
In the latter timeline, Ciarán Hinds as the older, defeated David (The Eclipse, Harry Potter Deathly Hallows, Race To Witch Mountain, There Will Be Blood, The Phantom Of The Opera, Munich), Tom Wilkinson as the older and still unfeeling Stephan (Oscar nominated, Batman Begins, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Michael Clayton, Duplicity, The Conspirator), and Helen Mirren as the older and long suffering ex-agent Rachel Singer (Oscar winner, The Queen, National Treasure, Excalibur, Love Ranch, The Tempest, Calendar Girls) give us the jealous defenders of a tale of heroism that have worn tired of keeping a secret that would dishonor them, their country, and their families. The casting of Jesper Christensen as the evil Doktor Bernhardt (Everlasting Moments, Casino Royale, Quantum Of Solace, The Interpreter, The Bench) was a stroke of genius.
We were delighted with the performances and even the story (we know that anything having to do with The Holocaust can be nothing but sad and lugubrious), but were not content with the way it was told. We expected more from a director of the caliber of John Madden.
It is a shame because as time goes by more movies dealing with The Holocaust, something that should not and cannot be forgotten and of which we have the duty to inform subsequent generations, should be produced.
For The Examiner, this is Lily.