Director: John Madden Writers: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan, Assaf Bernstein & Ido Rosenblum (film Ha-Hov)
Cast: Helen Mirran, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Sam Worthington, Jesper Christensen
SYNOPSIS: In 1966, three young Mossad agents pursue and look to capture a World War II war criminal hiding out "behind the wall" in Berlin. Thirty years later, it becomes obvious that the three hold a deep down secret.
REVIEW: John Madden, director of Shakespeare in Love and Proof, takes a script from Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass), and Peter Straughan, from the film Ha-Hov by Assaf Bernstein and Ido Rosenblum.
In The Debt, Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), David Peretz (Tom Wilkinson) and Unit Commander Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson) are retired Mossad agents who had come home heroes in 1966 after eliminating Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), a Nazi war criminal accused of the surgical extermination and butchery of Jews. Once Sarah, the daughter of Rachel and Stephan, writes and publishes a book in 1997 about the events involving her parents and David, a tightly clenched web of lies threatens to unravel.
Effortlessly and cleverly sliding from 1966 East Berlin and the "present" of 1997, The Debt shows the actual events as they unfold. Rachel (Jessica Chastain), a young Mossad agent on her first field assignment meets up with driven, silent agent David (Sam Worthington) and ambitious youngest ever Mossad Unit Commander Stephan (Marton Csokas). A triangle of sexual tension rises between the agents just as quickly as the stress of the assignment and the initial failure of the mission take their toil on the agents.
What is the secret that Rachel, Stephan and David share? What darkness has been sworn to thirty years of silence and has driven a wedge between them? And at what lengths will they go to keep the secret? The film starts off with a bang, displaying a vicious act of desperation and retribution. Fast-forward thirty years to suspicion and conspiracy emoting from every glance before being hidden behind the darkness of metal-rimmed sunglasses. As the story propels forward, the older version of the characters try to hold firm to the secret only they share, while the events of their younger counterparts lift the gauzy veil covering up the truth.
Helen Mirren as Rachel is superb, her acting up for the challenge of the role. The younger Rachel, played by Jessica Chastain, mixes naive hopefulness with quickly realized dread as her first assignment spins out of control. Sam Worthington's Peter broods with a deep sorrow, keeping his personal story close to the vest even as he lets his emotions concerning Rachel and his past cloud his judgements and rule his decisions. Young Stephan, played by Marton Csokas, is not ruled by emotions but is ruled by his sense of honor to country and the patriotism that the mission's success would mean. Most notable is Jesper Christensen as the hiding-in-plain-sight German gynecologist Doktor Bernhardt who, as Dieter Vogel, committed atrocities against the Jewish race in World War II.
Filled with tension, a strong story, and solid acting, The Debt is worthwhile. Getting its hooks into the audience early with action, intrigue and secrets, the slower pace of the retelling of the mission in the midsection of the film is tolerated. Once the unspoken is revealed, the ending has a satisfying conclusion that, ultimately, pays the debt in full.