The end of Summer is usually when Hollywood throws out its leftovers, movies that couldn’t compete against huge budget flicks that make hundreds of millions of dollars. Opening on a Wednesday usually isn’t a good sign either unless you are one of those huge budget flicks. But opening today is a film called The Debt that not only has a lot of talented people on screen, but also behind the camera and turns out is a really good film. The movie is directed by John Madden, the man behind the Oscar winning Shakespeare in Love. Also one of the screenwriters is Matthew Vaughn who just recently gave us the surprising hit X-Men: First Class. It stars Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds and Marton Csokas as both their current and younger versions of themselves.
The Debt is a remake of a 2007 Israeli film of the same name about three former Israeli Moosad secret agents (similar to the US’s CIA) who become famous for tracking down and killing the Surgeon of Birkenau, a famed Nazi doctor who experimented on and killed many Jews during the Holocaust. Unlike other films, the movie doesn’t struggle to keep the audience on track of the time frame as it bounces back between 1997 and 1966 without losing any understanding of what’s going on.
Chastain plays Rachel, Worthington plays David and Csokas plays Stephan in 1966 whose job it was to capture the Nazi. The 3 agents live together in an apartment while researching and following the doctor. As time passes, relationships are formed and the three eventually find their target.
While we see them in 1966, Mirren is playing Rachel, Wilkinson is playing Stephan and Hinds is playing David in 1997 Israel. Rachel and Stephan have a daughter together from their former marriage and their daughter wrote a book about their dealings with the Surgeon. When the book brings up old memories and secrets, David can’t handle what’s going on. Stephan and Rachel have one final mission that escalates into the movie’s big surprise twist.
Now any more information might have you trying to guess what the secret is so you won’t get any more information. The direction of the film does a pretty good job of hiding the true ending till the very end and gives the film a solid flow without too much down time or pacing issues.
The film scores big because of the cast though. Helen Mirren continues to not be typecasted and do roles that a woman her age shouldn’t be able to handle, but she breezes through. With movies like this and Red, Mirren somehow keeps adding action roles to an incredible resume. We haven’t seen much from Sam Worthington since Avatar, but he continues to surprise people with his performances. Wilkinson, as a man in a wheelchair, adds class to every film and although Hinds has limited time in the film, he gives a solid performance. Csokas adds yet another action film to his credits and has really good chemistry with Worthington and Jessica Chastain.
And that brings us to Miss Chastain. Is there anyone more on fire than this redhead right now? Gaining cred already this summer with Tree of Life and now having back to back #1 weeks at the box office with The Help, Chastain seems to have come out of nowhere to be Hollywood’s new “IT” girl. Hopefully she continues to take solid roles in good movies and doesn’t suffer from over exposure.
The Debt is a surprising movie. For a film that was sat on (it was scheduled to be released last December, but rescheduled because of Miramax/Disney complications), the film is really good. Chastain and Mirren mirror each other well as past and present characters as did Csokas and Wilkinson. Worthington and Hinds not so much though. That flaw aside, the movie is worth catching if you are into military, historical or even just straight up action flicks. Hopefully it doesn’t get lost at the box office and sat round too long that no one will see it.
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