Reviewed by Kevin Finnerty
“Your first time in the field?” “Welcome to the mission,” says Stephen (Marton Csokas) and David (Sam Worthington), two experienced Mossad agents to their newest ally, 25-year-old rookie agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) in the dramatic film, The Debt. The three agents have crossed over into East Berlin in 1966 to track down a Nazi war criminal named Vogel (Jesper Christensen) and bring him back to Israel to stand trial.
For weeks the trio trains together in a small apartment, setting up a cover to set a trap for Vogel who’s now a doctor with his own practice. Feelings, fears and tempers run high at times between the three agents who are feeling the pressure from their government to pull the mission off with great success. Stephen, David and Rachel, however, are not receiving much assistance from their own agency and are practically on their own to kidnap and transport Vogel back to Israel.
The film jumps ahead to 1997 where the retired agents, now portrayed by Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds and Helen Mirren, are considered national heroes for their actions on the mission back 30 years ago. However, when Stephen gets shocking news about David and a possible new fact about their old case, he reaches out to Rachel to go on one last mission for her sake and his own.
The Debt is a gripping, suspenseful, dramatic spy thriller with a stellar cast. Helen Mirren delivers another great performance in her career as Rachel, a woman who’s had to learn to live with a deep dark secret and her tragic mistakes, both professional and personal. She captures the pain, sorrow and underlying fear that her character carries with her beautifully. Jessica Chastain gives a stand-out performance as young Rachel who is truly terrified at failing on her first official mission and is drawn to both David and Stephen in much more than just a professional way. She also proves herself to be more than a capable agent in a riveting train sequence in the film. Marton Csokas is solid as young Stephen, the driven, ambitious leader of the group determined to make the mission a success at all costs. Jesper Christensen gives a stunning and disturbing performance as Vogel, the Nazi war criminal who still believes the horrors of what he did during World War 2 were justified. The scenes where he plays mind games on Rachel and David while imprisoned in their apartment are mesmerizing and terrifying.
Perhaps the only weakness in the film is the miscasting of Sam Worthington as young David. His annoying over the top accent distracts from the drama on the screen and he has no real chemistry with Chastain’s Rachel. The scenes where their characters are supposed to be drawn to each other, Worthington seems out of place and uncomfortable.
Extremely well directed by John Madden, with tight pacing, tense action and moving drama, The Debt is a surprising, shocking, exciting, espionage thriller that will have you guessing up to the very end how it’s going to turn out.
The Debt hits theaters on August 31, 2011 and is rated R for some violence and language.
More on The Debt:
–Trailer, poster and cast info