The lull between summer blockbusters and the holiday season is always an interesting time for movies. It is sort of a catch all for those that would have gotten lost in the summer shuffle and without the depth for the end of year Oscar push. It isn't a bad time for films, but you have to be willing to take a gamble and hope it pays off.
The Debt is a film that actually delivers 120 minutes of entertainment, albeit niche market thrills. The story revolves around three secret agents (Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) involved in a 1966 mission in East Berlin to capture a Nazi war criminal (Jesper Christensen). It is now 1997 and the agents (portrayed respectively by Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds) have to revisit the events of the past. As the plot unfolds we find out that things aren't quite as they seem. Cover-ups, deceptions, and attempts at redemption all circulate into an ending that will please some and leave others feeling cheated.
I like a good espionage thriller and this one had all the right intentions. It was well written and relied on the dramatic chops of its actors more than explosions, car chases, and fist fights. It had a lot of emotional undertones that gave it tension and a raw edge. If you are not careful you will mistake the easy pace for dullness. Some scenes offer little in the way of action yet each one is a vital piece of the overall portrait. You have to allow those moments to wash over you and soak in what the characters are feeling. Once you are able to feel what they feel the story takes on a new level of intensity.
The Debt is very well acted and the younger versions of the characters give the veterans a run for their money, Sam Worthington being the heaviest hitter. Mirren and Wilkenson are always professional and deliver drama like few others. Here they have less to work with since most of the film is in the 60's time frame. Also I felt that the meat of the story was written for the younger actors. The later events are there for plot and to tie things up. Not a lot of range was given.
Rated R for some violence and language it isn't gratuitous in anyway. The violence isn't on going but reserved for one or two poignant scenes. There are a spattering of F bombs but again these are there to convey emotion in intense moments and not just for shock. I give it 3 out of 5 safe houses. I liked the pace and the story line but felt that they should have given more thought to how they wrapped things up. Plus there are a couple of scenes that seem out of place and do nothing but add minutes to the film. My concern is that the lack of action will leave many feeling like they didn't quite get the bang for their buck they wanted. A better renter? Sadly so.
Review copyright 2011 Mungleshow Productions. Used by Permission.