by Coop Cooper
“The Debt” follows three ex-Mossad agents in 1997 (Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds) who based their entire careers and lives around the fact that in 1966 they captured a notorious Nazi war criminal in Berlin. Despite their accomplishments, they’ve been keeping a terrible secret and when circumstances threaten to expose their shame, they set out not only correct the problem but to also right a wrong committed over thirty years prior. The story behind the secret unfolds in flashbacks with Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington (respectively) playing younger versions of the agents.
While “The Debt” shares many similarities with Steven Spielberg’s “Munich,” it also shares some of its shortcomings. It is built around a compelling concept and features a few fine actors who deliver equally fine performances (especially Mirren and Chastain). However, the film’s poor pacing causes it to come to a grinding halt more than once and only regains its momentum in a few key scenes near the end. It’s also strange how the final confrontation feels completely ripped off from the brutal Laurence Olivier vs. Gregory Peck hand-to-hand fight in the 1978 film “The Boys from Brazil.” The conclusion is difficult to buy and doesn’t seem to fit the overall tone of the film, but there is enough included to keep espionage fans interested.
If nothing else, the film confirms my belief that the underexposed Jessica Chastain is the real deal when it comes to A-list acting and that Sam Worthington is an overexposed, mopey waste of screen space.
“The Debt” releases on DVD December 6th. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars