Movie Review: The Debt

Posted on October 29, 2012 in Media and Culture

By Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha:

Directed by Academy Award nominee, John Madden (for Shakespeare in Love), this 2011 espionage-thriller film opens with three Mossad secret agents: Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain — exudes vulnerability and cold resilience brilliantly), Stephan Gold (Marton Csokas), and David Peretz (Sam Worthington) who return to Israel from Germany as heroes in 1965 for taking down the barbaric Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen- devilish and repugnant), notoriously known as the “Surgeon of Birkenau” for his abhorrent medical experiments conducted on Jews during the Second World War.

The movie takes a thirty year leap to 1997 when Rachel (Helen Mirren) is honored by her daughter Sarah (Romi Aboulafia) during a book launch party for the book based on the events of 1965. Simultaneously, Rachel and Stephan (Tom Wilkinson — two-time Academy Award nominee) receive shattering news of David’s (Ciaran Hinds) suicide.

Venerated for years by their country, Rachel and Stephan, now have to embark on a mission that makes them guiltily confront their past and delicately retain their daughter Sarah’s respect for her parents.

Will they be able to repay the debt to their past?

The film’s storyline is time-shifting and as a viewer you will be taken back and forth between the events of 1965 and 1997. Charged with deception, political intrigue, and ethical quandaries, this film reveals the insecurities of each of its characters who have to survive together in enemy country to fulfill one cause — restoring the glory of Israel and making their nation proud.

Young Rachel (Jessica Chastain) is brave and lethal, yet there are moments when she succumbs to the tenderness of her love for Young David (Sam Worthington), only to find that he is too haunted by the horrors of the Holocaust to accept his love for her. Sam Worthington’s portrayal of the Israeli agent as dark, morose, and guilt-ridden leaves the viewer to sympathize with the futility of his distressing situation. For the next thirty years, David roams the world from South America to Africa trying to rid himself of the lie and his longing for Rachel. Helen Mirren as the older Rachel delivers an extremely assured, nuanced performance as the tenacious retired agent forced to revisit her inglorious past. Tom Wilkinson enacts his role as the older Stephan with quiet brilliance as the estranged husband who is banded together with Rachel in their undisclosed secret.

The cinematography by Ben Davis is superbly evocative of the personal turmoil and the emotional dilemmas haunting the lead characters. The dark shadows and the morbidity of the characters’ living conditions in the film, pulls you into the quagmire of hopelessness. Rachel’s and Stephan’s life gets more complicated and as the story progresses steadily towards a suspenseful end, you are left in a dilemma, whether to — applaud the heroism and courage of Rachel, loathe the cowardice and angst of rejection in Stephan, or seethe with fury at the despicable Dieter Vogel.

The Debt, takes the viewers through many highs and lows, but it’s the perfect movie to watch on a boring, Saturday night, if you are looking for some mystery and thrilling revelations.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Kritika is a freelance writer and journalist living in Mumbai. Mumbai is the city she grew up in and despite her globetrotting, she always loves coming back to this city. Writing is her food for soul and when she isn’t writing, she loves to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s plays and new movies every weekend.[/box]

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