The Debt (Rated R) Three Stars
The Debt (113 minutes) is a remake of a 2007 Israeli film never released in U.S. theaters. It’s not bad, but since there are no zombies, plagues, explosions, offensive humor or Harry Potters, it is a little outside my normal preferences. I guess it was okay. A little boring and hard to follow, but Helen Mirren is a good actor, and Jessica Chastain does this really cool hand-to-hand combat thing.
For those who haven’t been keeping track, Mossad is the Israeli version of the CIA. The events of the film take place half in 1966 and half in 1997. One drawback is figuring out which 1966 character grows up to be the 1997 equivalent. It is fairly obvious that Chastain grows up to be Mirren, but figuring out which one David is (Sam Worthington/Ciaran Hinds) and which one Stephan is (Marton Csokas/Tom Wilkinson) becomes a bit of a challenge. The problem exists due to some poor camera work and weirdly timed flashbacks that don’t re-veal details needed in the beginning of the film.
Drawback number two is the complete lack of moral com-plexity developed in the villain. Sure, Nazis make great villains because they are an obvious evil. The problem is creating believable Nazis whose dialogue is more complex than repeating various sections of Mein Kampf verbatim. I guess Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) starts off believable, he just ends up as a caricature. And I refuse to believe he could get the better of either Chastain or Mirren, even on a bad day.
In 1966, Mossad agent Rachel Singer (Chastain) arrives in East Berlin. She is met by David Perezt (Worthington) and Stephan Gold (Csokas). They are assigned to capture Dieter Vogel, Surgeon of Birkenau and bring him back to Israel alive to face trial. Mixed in with this vitally important mission, Rachel works on getting a boyfriend. Because women make bad secret agents because they get emotional and stuff and distract men from doing secret agent missions with their big eyes and need for love. And then the men fall in love with them and blow the mission trying to save them because women are not capable of get-ting out of tight situations even with their presumably intense training. Or something. The subplot was distractingly annoy-ing and unnecessary so I tried to tune it out.
Vogel is currently working as an OB/GYN, and the plan is for Rachel to pose as David’s fertility challenged wife. By the third visit things have gotten as creepy and inappropriate as they possibly can, so Rachel takes him out with a sedative injected into his neck. Posing as ambulance drivers, David and Stephan scoop up Vogel and attempt to smuggle him out of the country.
That works out just as well as it ever does in action mov-ies, so the three drag Vogel back to their apartment and hide out. Personalities end up falling along the continuum of care about how you would expect (guess which characters want to jam food down his throat and who respects the human dignity of the prisoner). And guess who is watching the prisoner when he makes his big move?
The years pass, and the agents have gone their separate ways. Rachel’s daughter Sarah (Romi Aboulafia) writes an account of the 1966 events. The book’s account serves as a Macguffin of sorts, spurring the characters to action.
Overall, if you like this sort of movie you’ll get caught up in the good parts while finding it easier to ignore the bad parts.