Saturday, September 3, 2011

'The Debt' Pays Off

Some actors never turn in a bad performance. Michael Caine, Meryl Streep, Judi Dench come to mind. Oh, and Helen Mirren.
So now here’s her latest release, “The Debt,” and she is amazing as usual. But hers is not the only fine performance in this unusual espionage thriller directed by John Madden.
Helen Mirren as Rachel, 1997.
The story begins in Tel Aviv in 1997, with the publication of a book by Sarah Gold about her mother, Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), who along with Stefan and David, are revered for their heroic exploits in 1966. The Mossad trio’s mission was to track down Nazi war criminal Doktor Bernhardt – “The Surgeon of Berkenau,” (Jesper Christensen) kidnap him out of East Berlin and bring him back to Israel for trial. The movie cuts back and forth from 1997to 1966, with young Rachel being portrayed by Jessica Chastain. Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington play the young Stefan and David, while Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds portray their 1997 versions. All are excellent, especially Chastain, Christensen and Wilkinson.
We learn early on that there is a dark secret about their mission, one that continues to haunt them. I can’t tell you more, lest I spoil the suspense.
The young trio of spies: Rachel, Stefan and David.
There is mounting tension as the events of 1966 unfold, punctuated by some surprising and violent developments. And 1997 is not without its shocks either. One event is so well depicted that its conclusion is apt to induce cardiac arrest!
The last act contains surprises and thrills as well.
The drama is dark and tense, but always riveting, as we try to keep up. 
This movie signals the start of the “serious” films, those angling to be considered for awards. This one could be in the mix. And it bodes well for the rest of the Oscar-race season to come.
I’m awarding “The Debt” three and a half reels (out of four).

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