Wednesday 3 April 2013

The Debt - film review

The Debt is a recent American remake of an earlier Israeli film, and it boasts a wonderful cast - Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas, to name a few. It's an espionage film, but although there's plenty of exciting, and sometimes chilling action and suspense, there's also an attempt to deal with important issues such as when it is better to tell the truth rather than sticking to a lie that has saved people from harm.

The early scenes need to be watched very carefully, as the action zips around and two different periods of time are involved. Mirren plays Rachel, a woman who in 1990s Israel enjoys a considerable reputation for courage, whose adoring daughter has just written a book about her past exploits in espionage. Wilkinsoon is her ex-husband, a spy who has become an important political figure, but who uses a wheelchair (we learn that this is because he had been blown up by car bomb.)

Various scenes flash back to a time, 30 years earlier, when this pair, along with another young man, go to East Germany during the Cold War, trying to capture a brutal former Nazi medic - the Surgeon of Birkenau. We see early on an apparently conclusive scene explaining what happpened, but later on, it turns out that we have been misled.

The tricky storytelling rather appealed to me. Playing games with story structure is something that is fascinating when it is well done, and here it is very well done. There are some very dark moments along the way, and I'm not entirely sure why Rachel made her final choice. In fact, I'm not absolutely convinced it was the right choice, but this is a consistently gripping movie, which made quite an impact on me. A good example of a strong story that is something more than just a straightforward thriller.


Anonymous said...


I really liked this movie as well. I thought the back and forth between times and the uncertainty of what actually happened gave the story a real intensity.

Ray Kolb

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Ray, glad to hear from you.