‘The Debt’ Review: Stunning performances mixed with a thrilling plot

Posted in Big Hollywood, Film, Reviews by - August 31, 2011
‘The Debt’ Review: Stunning performances mixed with a thrilling plot

What a wonderful summer we have had for movies! I think the absolute best movies. From the climatic finale of the beloved ‘Harry Potter’ series to the heartwarming book turned heartwarming movie, ‘The Help’ to the unpredictable romantic comedy ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ — I thought summer 2011 was coming to a nice close. Just when you think this season couldn’t get any better, ‘The Debt’ is released and it’s a movie that shocks and astounds.

I wanted to see ‘The Debt’ because of my love for Helen Mirren, an actress that only grows more talented and beautiful with age. I was also excited to see 2011’s breakout star Jessica Chastain (‘The Help’ and ‘The Tree of Life’) when I first saw the trailer.

The film begins in 1997, when three former Israeli secret service agents (played by Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds) are being celebrated for capturing and killing a horrible Nazi war criminal about 30 years prior. Two of the agents accept the accolades, another doesn’t feel comfortable being in the public eye.

Most of  the story takes place back in the ‘60s when the young trio (played by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington) plans and then finally executes their dangerous mission. The intense complications that follow brings the trio together and relentlessly pushes them into a love triangle.

This film is structured by director John Madden (‘Shakespeare in Love’) so that the audience sees two actors play each role. The young characters are motivated and charged by their mission, while the older characters live with an obvious weight on their shoulders caused by a secret they have carried ever since. When you see Jessica Chastain, you see the shadow of Helen Mirren and vice versa. It is a true success when two actors can mimic each other and play off each the other’s scenes.

Another stellar performance is that of Jesper Christensen who plays the Lucifer-like Nazi doctor. To put several decades of hate and villainous qualities into a single character cannot easy and Christensen proves himself worthy.

What sets this apart from other suspense dramas is the compassionate and contemplating relationship between the three main characters. It’s rare when a film has a gripping script full of suspense, drama and character development. A little slow in the beginning, ‘The Debt’ switches to full nail-biting speed midway through and becomes something that shouldn’t be missed. 

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