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Great suspense and some genuine surprises.
5/10 The Debt is a Nazi hunt/spy thriller all rolled into one and it's nice to see a classic thriller that takes the subject matter seriously and relies on suspense to keep us in its grip. I was at the edge of my seat for most of the time and there's plenty of surprising turns in the story to keep even the most jaded enthralled.4 years ago
Most of todays inept filmmakers rely on blowing stuff up hoping that this will count as suspense. It also is such a breath of fresh air in an appalling year of C -grade superhero movies and obscure comic book adaptations. Hopefully this does well so Hollywood can go back to making well written thrillers and dramas like they used to.
Best suspense thriller of 2011 so far.
Go See This Film...Now
9/10 I went to The Debt because I had seen the trailers ages ago and was instantly telling myself I wanted to see this film. Not to be reminded about one of the ugliest of human stains in world history; not because I wanted to think about images in a WWII documentary I happened to watch unattended at an adult party when I was seven years old and will never forget (but, I try); not because I wanted something to feel bad about.4 years ago
I went because of the reviews, the trailer, and Helen Mirren, and pretty much the entire ensemble of brilliant actors. It was a bit slow starting according to my companion, and some of the initial flashbacks left one a little confused, and then once the story started when the Mossad agents were in Germany to track down and bring the "Surgeon of Birkenau" to trial, I was so glad it was a reminder film. That no one will ever fully understand what drives a nation and group like the Mossad to do what they do. This made me understand a little bit more.
This was a very tragic, thoughtful film with the embodiment of the mortal coil and well worth watching and thinking about. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain as the young Rachel were so good. Give Mirren another Oscar already. And, the men, including the "Surgeon" who I wanted to kill myself, were all so very good in this.
I don't agree the film lagged at the end. In fact, it left you wondering, questioning, the twist was unexpected, and I am glad, despite the lingering tears in my eyes as I write this, that I saw it. My fellow cinematic partner agreed as well. Go see this film. You won't forget it. And, we really shouldn't ever forget it.
The Debt's potential is spoiled by sloppy writing
4/10 Is the truth actually what happened or what everyone believes happened? The Debt attempts to answer the question and almost succeeds if it were not for some very poor screen writing. It is 1966 and Mossad has finally tracked down the infamous Birkenau surgeon, Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen). Dr. Vogel is very high on the list of Nazi war criminals the Israelis are hunting down because of the atrocities he committed at his concentration camp. He would deliberately blind children to see if he could change eye color and cut off hands and feet and reattach them on the wrong limbs to see what happened.4 years ago
The spy team assigned to kidnap him and bring him to justice are team leader Stephan (Marton Csokas), David (Sam Worthington), and Rachel (Jessica Chastain). Their story is told in flashback and the first half of it is absolutely riveting. Rachel poses as a woman with fertility issues and becomes a patient of Dr. Vogel who is hiding as an OBGYN in the Soviet sector of East Berlin. The tension during the examination room scenes are the highlight of the film with both Rachel and the doctor verbally maneuvering to ensure the other person is who they think they are.
After a convincing action sequence, the story abruptly turns from a kidnap/escape scenario into a hostage situation. This is one of the points where the film just falls apart. Mossad and their agents are the best in the entire world at their art. There is no way such highly trained agents would fall victim to and resort to the amateur hour theatrics which come with the hostage sequence. The script is riddled with illogical and bizarre events which only occur during the film's most important sequences for some reason.
Fast forward to 1997 and now older Rachel (Helen Mirren) is at her daughter's book release party which describes the team's successful mission to Berlin all those years ago. Older Stephen (Tom Wilkinson) is also around for the recollections. The 1997 scenes are adeptly written and filmed, especially scenes with Mirren. Tom Wilkerson is just along for the ride. Unfortunately, the movie's climax is one of the most preposterous situations a decent film has been saddled with. It is so ridiculous that a two hour meeting with the writers would still not convince me this was the best way to resolve the story's actions and issues. The mood and atmosphere are destroyed and the audience collectively shook their heads in disbelief at the mockery on screen.
Screenwriters Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Kick-Ass), and Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare at Goats) adapted this screenplay from an earlier film. The Debt's first hour is quite good with adept flow from 1997 to 1966 and the truly suspenseful scenes between Chastain and Christensen. However, their handling of the hostage situation and the absurd climax are what really hurt this film and makes the audience shake their heads with the 'Oh, what might have been' lament.
The Burden of Truth
6/10 Greetings again from the darkness. Espionage thrillers can be so much fun in both book and movie form. Movies actually have a little advantage for the action scenes. Books clearly have the advantage in details, backstory and character development. What is frustrating as a viewer is when a movie starts strong and then crumbles under the weight of expectation ... sometimes trying to make a bigger splash than necessary. Such is the case with director John Madden's remake of the rarely-seen 2007 Israeli film "HA-HOV".4 years ago
The story is centered around a 1965 mission of a trio of Mossad agents. Mossad is Israel's CIA. These three agents, Rachel (Jessica Chastain), Stephan (Marton Csokas) and David (Sam Worthington) are to capture the notorious Nazi war criminal, the Surgeon of Birkenau (Jesper Christensen), and bring him back for a proper trial of war time atrocities.
Flash forward to 1997 and Rachel's daughter has written a book about the daring mission and the three heroes. The older version of the characters are played by Helen Mirren (Rachel), Tom Wilkinson (Stephan) and Ciran Hinds (David). We are treated to flashbacks of the mission and how things took a wrong turn, but ended just fine. Or did they? There seems to be some inconsistencies with the story told and the actual events that have created much strain between Rachel and Stephan, and life-altering changes for the more sensitive David.
This is an odd film because the best story parts occur when the younger cast members are carrying out the 1965 mission. It is full of suspense and intrigue. The intensity and believability drops off significantly in the 1997 version, but oddly, the older actors are much more fun to watch on screen ... especially the great Helen Mirren. I am not sure what all of that really means, but for me, it meant the third act of the film was a bit hokey and hard to buy.
Director John Madden is known for his fabulous "Shakespeare in Love", but not much else. His films since then have all come up just a bit short of that very high bar he set 13 years ago. Jessica Chastain continues her fantastic 2011 season adding this performance to her more spectacular turns in "Tree of Life" and "The Help". Sam Worthington is known for his role in "Avatar", but his character here is so thinly written, I doubt any actor could have pulled it off. Jesper Christensen seems to usually play the bad guy and he is in full glory here as a Nazi war criminal with no regrets.
The first half will keep you on the edge of your seat, but by the end you will have a somewhat empty feeling. What a shame as this one teased us with much hope.
A debt of gratitude for an enjoyable movie
8/10 It's always nice when you see a movie trailer that looks pretty good, and then when you see the movie it far exceeds your expectations. The Debt, a remake of a 2007 Israeli movie of the same name, is a suspenseful espionage thriller about a team of Israeli Mossad agents as they attempt to track down "the Surgeon of Birkenau". The movie incorporates flashbacks and flash-forwards in a controllable fashion, with approximately half the movie taking place in 1966 and the other half taking place in 1997. The film is based on a screenplay co-written by Jane Goldman and frequent co-collaborator, Matthew Vaughn, a rising star known for his writing and directing of films such as the underrated Kick -Ass and the 2011 summer hit X-Men: First Class. Director John Madden, best known for his Oscar winning movie Shakespeare in Love, crafts an intriguing film that although predictable at times keeps you engaged. In The Debt, Madden has made some great choices in casting; beginning with Oscar winner Helen Mirren and Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson, both of whom provide stellar performances. Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas, and Sam Worthington, although not having any Oscar nominations of their own, give captivating performances during the movie's most brooding scenes.4 years ago
I enjoy espionage films, such as Munich, Spy Game and North by Northwest, immensely. The Debt's strength, much like those other three films, is that it's character and story driven and not dependant on action or special effects to maintain its viewers. The pacing is steady and there's a lot of intensity as the agents attempt to accomplish their mission. The subject matter of the film is a dark one, and that's reflected in the film. Unlike your neighborhood police department or county sheriff's department, intelligence agencies do whatever is necessary to get the result they are seeking; such as some uncomfortable visits, for the patient as well as the viewer, with Dr. Bernhardt, played disturbingly by Jesper Christensen The movie kept me intrigued throughout, and I find myself often sliding up to the edge of my seat, unable to tear my eyes away from what was happening. As the film drew to a close, most questions are answered and closure is provided, unlike just about every other movie made today.
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