Directed by John Madden
“The Debt” is deeply flavored in the style of John le Carré, and it is natural to draw comparisons to the wonderfully shot film, “Munich.” “The Debt” primarily centers around a cast of three and their shared experience while on a covert mission in East Berlin in 1965, and its subsequent repercussions that fully unfold in 1997.
In 1965, Mossad agents David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas) have been working together for the past two years to track down the infamous war criminal, the Surgeon of Birkenau. The trail finally pans out, and the two have all but confirmed the surgeon’s whereabouts in East Berlin. To shore up the details (and the rest of the plan) a third agent is required, specifically a female agent. This is where translator turned field agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) comes onboard. Being her first time in the field David and Stefan are a bit weary at first, but as the plan comes together with Rachel’s confirmation of the target their trust in her begins to grow.
Interspersed throughout the core narrative taking place in 1965 there is another subplot consisting of the same agents, but thirty-years later and in direct response to the conclusion of the original mission to capture the Surgeon of Birkenau. Now in their late fifties/early sixties the three agents have all gone their separate ways and lived very different lives with very different purposes. However, with the release of a book detailing the three’s covert mission, penned by Rachel’s daughter, old feelings and mistakes rear their ugly head and the three must again take a journey together—this time to the past.
The three protagonists are split amongst two actors (respectively), and when considering the time jump in plots this of course makes sense from a casting as well as a writer’s perspective. Helen Mirren does a masterful job (as always) of portraying the 1997 version of Rachel Singer along with Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds as Stefan and David. Both Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds are fantastic actors and hold their own, but there was definitely a disconnect between the physical appearances of their 1965-selves. I almost felt that it would have been more believable if they had Tom Wilkinson play David and Ciarán Hinds play Stefan, but all in all it is most-likely a personal preference, and doesn’t detract from the acting in any shape or form.
I wish that I could be more detailed in my synopsis, but a lot of the plot centers upon the perceptions of events and their subsequent ‘truths,’ so by revealing plot details I would effectively ruin a bulk of the film. I can say this though:
At its heart, the plot deals with espionage and love. The three agents, who by necessity come together for justice, end up leaving in a morale gray area and in skewed love triangle.
I highly recommend this film. It is a bit macabre, and does not have the traditional ‘happy ending.’ So, make sure that you are in the right frame of mind before diving into this one, but when you do you won’t regret it. If you enjoyed watching “Munich,” or are an avid reader of Graham Green or John le Carré, than “The Debt” will be right up your alley.
Courtesy of YouTube, check out the trailer below to get a feel for the film:
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