The Debt Review

How many times do you need to repeat the same lie for it to become your truth?

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of lying. Always seemed like such an awful lot of work.

It’d be fine if it was just a one time thing, where you can immediately forget about the lie and move on with your life.

But it never works out like this, there’s always other lies you need to construct in order to protect the first one.

As all the protagonists of The Debt, good and bad, would no doubt testify to.

We begin with a shot of two guys and a girl walking out of a plane and across the airport tarmac to be greeted by some men in dark suits and glasses.

The young woman is beautiful, but has a noticeable scar on her right cheek.

This is Rachel Singer, a twenty something Mossad agent returning from her first assignment in the field.

She is flanked by David Peretz and Stephan Gold, her two fellow secret agent men and sharp points of the archetypical hollywood love triangle.

Fast forward twenty one years to the present day, well 1997 according to the film’s storyline, and Rachel is getting ready to attend her daughter’s first book launch, chronicling her mother’s landmark espionage mission.

The years have been kind to Rachel, though that scarlet mark on her cheek has yet to fade completely with time.

Joining Rachel on this proud occasion are the same two men from her clandestine past.

These three haven’t seen each other for years, but upon catching sight of Stephan in the chauffeur driven car behind the one he’s being lead to, David promptly steps in front of oncoming traffic.

So as not to spoil Rachel’s daughter special occasion, Stephan keeps this to himself. But once they are alone, he breaks the news to her.

As they search David’s apartment for clues to why he would do such a thing, Rachel and Stephan go back over that old mission of theirs and a secret these three agents have kept ever since.

Adapted from an Israeli film of the same name, The Debt is a fictional exploration of how the Israeli secret service tried to bring justice to the Nazi scientists for the horrific crimes they committed during the second world war.

While The Debt’s narrative may be fictitious, its unconscionable inspiration is all too real.

Yet the real story is of the risks three secret agents will take to try and serve justice on one of the most notorious perpetrators of these war crimes.

Pretty evenly split between the past and the present, The Debt is largely told in flashback as Rachel remembers the real truth of their mission.

So we get to see the three leads played by both young and old in a rather impressive ensemble of acting talent.

Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas play the younger versions of Rachel, David and Stephan; with Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson reprising the older incarnations respectively.

Yet the old folks can’t really keep up with the suspense and intrigue of their past, and the intensity drops noticeably when The Debt returns to the present for it’s all too convenient conclusion.

Which isn’t to say The Debt is a bad film, far from it, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t easily forgotten.

Something that should never be applied to its subject matter.

Jonathan Campbell

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September 2011
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