#249 / 365 – ‘The Debt’ – 113 mins
Cinema Challenge #101 / 115
The story begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (Ciarán Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of the mission that they undertook back in 1966, when the trio (portrayed, respectively, by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) tracked down Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen) in East Berlin. At great risk, and at considerable personal cost, the team’s mission was accomplished – or was it?
The Debt is a reworking of the 2007 Israeli film ‘Ha-hov’ and whilst this American version has the pedigree to be a fantastic espionage thriller and to a point it does intrigue during its first act. Soon after it devolves into a film of many missed opportunities to completely engage and develop full tension on exposing the truth in humanity on what it means to lie about something on an international scale. Also during its second act the direction falters from John Madden as it doesn’t know what route it wants to take – that of great drama or continuing thriller.
That said. The Debt is satisfyingly entertaining enough in places and has fantastic cinematography within it’s Cold War-era setting, and Madden gets across a great claustrophobic, paranoid feel of 1960s Berlin. On top its well acted across (if underutilising the excellent Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds) its flashback narrative and has a captivating performance from Helen Mirren, when does she ever disappoint? Also Sam Worthington again puts in another disappointing performance and I increasingly fail to understand why he’s cast in so many good roles, as for me every time he just comes off as one-dimensional.