The Debt, a drama-thriller directed by John Madden and co-written by Matthew Vaughan, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan, is a remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name. By nature remakes always run the risk of disappointing and this film could have easily fallen into the mundane fare of the spy-espionage genre but a focus on character relationships over action sets this film apart. An all-star cast reminds us that the choices we make always have a way of catching up to us.
The movie takes place in 1997 and the narrative follows a series of flashbacks to 1966. The cast includes Academy Award winner Helen Mirren as Rachel Singer, Ciaran Hinds as David and (two time Academy Award nominee) Tom Wilkinson as Stefan. All three play former Israeli Mossad agents in the 1990’s. There 1966 counterparts are played by Jessica Chastain as a young Rachel, Sam Worthington (of Avatar fame) as David and Martin Csokas as Stefan. Their mission is to capture and return to Israel notorious Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel, “The Surgeon of Birkenau”.
The movie begins in 1997, as Rachel Singer’s daughter, Sarah a journalist played by Romi Aboulafia, gives a speech to announce the release of her new book. The book depicts the story of the capture and killing of Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel in Russia controlled East Germany. In her speech, Sarah recognizes her mother, Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) as her greatest inspiration. Rachel was one of the three Mossad agents who carried out the successful mission. This innocent announcement sets off an unexpected chain of events and leads the viewer across different time periods with twists and turns and a surprising revelation that changes everything.
The performances are excellent- even action star Worthington and new “It” girl Chastain deliver compellingly- and the story is engaging. What separates this movie from your normal espionage spy thriller is the relationships between the three main characters, the impact of the decisions they make and how those decisions change their lives forever. While there are a few slow moments in the beginning, The Debt picks up speed as it goes along and saves the best of its action for the end. At just under two hours and a story meant for a mature audience (hence the R rating), I would recommend this film (lets say 3.5 out of 5 stars). It’s a choice that won’t come back to haunt you!