The Debt Review
By Bret Dorman
A lot of people have a war that they find the ‘most interesting’ and on film the two biggest ones are without a doubt World War II and The Vietnam War. My ‘favorite’ war is The Cold War. Attribute it to my (borderline crazy) love of the Tactical Espionage Action game Metal Gear Solid if you want, but I like a good story about spies and sneaking.
The Debt isn’t about the Cold War in the USA Vs Russia sense, but it is an adult espionage thriller.
The Story: In the distant future of 1997, three spy friends Rachel, Stephan, and David mope around because of past events. In the past, 1966, three spy friends Rachel, Stephan, and David mope around because of current events. Also, the villain is a nazi.
Right away I want to point out that I am not one of those people that nit picks every minor little thing in a movie, especially when younger actors don’t look EXACTLY like their older counter parts in movies where two actors have to play the same role in different timelines during the movie. But in The Debt, Martin Csokas who plays Young Stephan looks JUST like a younger version of Cirian Hinds, who plays the older version of David. At first I found it confusing because I just assumed the two were the same character but when I found out they were flip flipped I just found it really distracting. For the Record Tom Wilkinson plays Older Stephan and Sam Worthington plays Young David.
The one thing they did get right was picking Jessica Chastain and Hellen Mirren to play the same role, distinguished obviously by a facial scar. I’m not saying the two look alike or the fact they had a scar made it easy to tell they were the same character (and obviously she is the only female of the three), but because both actresses are super awesome. I wish this were a time travel movie so they could have had a scene together.
The Debt does jump around in its timeline and they don’t really tell you right away what is going on and some things change around a little. I think because of this some people will have a hard time piecing the ‘puzzle’ together and perhaps be a step behind the movie for a while and then think the movie is smarter than it really is. I found the jumping around to be fairly effective, but wish more time was spent in the past.
I like a good Heist. This movie is not a Heist Movie, but it has the smallest traces of one. There is a would-be tense moment of a kidnapping (the tension is sort of drained because we know they have kidnapped him). Then they have to sneak around and try to do stuff without getting caught. This movie isn’t about who has the biggest gun or who can survive the biggest explosion, but who can be the quietest and sneakiest.
I like this idea that the spies have to rely on their mentalities and ethics. They are given physical training, but its their beliefs and mental perseverance that are tested. Jesper Christensen plays Doctor Bernhardt and really pushes all three characters around while being their hostage. You never really see him do anything bad on screen but he does make it known that he is a bad man.
In the end, there’s something that happens that makes the future people have to pay for something they did in the past. I liked seeing the retired spies having to get back into it, but ultimately what they are after and how long the movie takes to get there doesn’t do it for me. The ending of this movie doesn’t leave you with an “OH CRAP!” moment like it should, but it drags out that moment until you just feel confused why they dragged it out so long.
The movie opens more or less with the reading and you find out the spies failed their mission of transporting The Nazi Doctor and instead had to kill him. I really did like the reveal of the fact they didn’t really kill him, because you tune out for that scene since you’ve already seen it and they show it to you again in its entirety. Once you realize you’ve been duped… you also realize its not just some cheap gimmick to trick you, but that means the characters have been lying their whole life.
Once you find this out though, the movie looses most its emotional intrigue. It briefly goes back into spy mode (Mirren breaking into the news office was great) but the fake out of the guy and the two killing each other just didn’t work for me. It was weird to so many years later bring that back up and to finish it in such a bleak, drawn out way.
In Conclusion, there aren’t many adult spy thrillers out there and The Debt is good enough to enjoy, but not necessarily a good example of why people might want to see a good adult spy thriller.
Final Grade: B-