Movie Review - The Debt

Yes, finally, a movie to make you think. If you’re looking for something to see that isn’t a mindless summer tent-pole movie (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, anyone?) and have already seen The Help, The Debt – a remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name – is definitely deserving of your $10.
It was originally supposed to be released late last year, but was delayed for some reason or another due to Disney – which owns Miramax Films, the studio that released The Debt – undergoing ownership changes. Nonetheless, it’s certainly worth the wait and easily one of the year’s 10 best.
Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), the movie opens in 1997 where a journalist named Sarah Gold (Romi Aboulafia, Breaking and Entering) celebrates the release of her book, which is about her mother Rachel Singer (the incomparable Helen Mirren, State of Play), one of the three Mossad agents who captured a Nazi war criminal named Dr. Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen, Quantum of Solace), alias the “Surgeon of Birkenau,” in 1966.
The movie flashes back 31 years to when the three Mossad agents – Rachel (Jessica Chastain, The Help), David (Sam Worthington, Avatar), and Stefan (Marton Csokas, The Bourne Supremacy) – are assigned to capture Vogel, who is a practicing OB/GYN in East Berlin, and bring him to Israel to stand trial for the atrocities he committed during World War II.
The agents manage to capture him and bring him to the extraction point in East Berlin, hoping to cross the border. However, Vogel wakes up and manages to sound the horn, alerting the border guards. A firefight ensues and the three Mossad agents are left no choice but to abort the mission, taking Vogel with them to their temporary headquarters – a rundown apartment in East Berlin – while trying to figure out their next move.
Vogel starts playing head games with the three, exploiting Stefan and David’s growing attraction to Rachel. The way he gets under their skin would make Hannibal Lechter proud. Vogel gets free and battles Rachel. Although he severely wounds her, she manages to kill him once she retrieves her gun.
All of this is chronicled in Sarah’s book and the movie shifts back to the present (1997). However, that is not what happened. Rachel, Stefan (Tom Wilkinson, The Dark Knight), and David (Ciarán Hinds, Salvation Boulevard) covered up the truth about what really occurred that night in 1966. Inevitably, the past comes back to haunt them, as the cliché goes.
A wheelchair-bound Stefan – who is Sarah’s father and Rachel’s ex-husband – informs Rachel that David committed suicide. It is up to Rachel to set things to rights in order to keep their cover-up covered up. What this entails and what this cover-up is won’t be revealed here; you just have to see the movie. Mirren delivers a tour de force performance as Rachel, as does Chastain as a younger Rachel. Filled with plenty of international intrigue, deeply-nuanced performances of these conflicted characters, and some violence to keep it interesting, The Debt will keep you riveted from start to finish. If this movie doesn’t have any nominations come Oscar night, that would only confirm that the Oscars are fixed.