The date of a movie opening can tell you a lot about a film. If it opens over Fourth of July weekend, the studio expects it to gross $100 million. If it’s released in October, it’s most likely a horror film; in November or December, it’s either an Oscar contender of a holiday family film. If, however, a movie has all the makings of an Oscar flick, but is released at the end of summer, that sometimes means the studio doesn’t think the film measures up. The Debt, I fear, is one of those films.
The movie starts out in 1997, where the daughter of a revered Mussad agent, Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), has just published a book about the heroic mission of three agents, her mother among them, capturing a notorious Mengele-esque Nazi war criminal 30 years earlier. However, a series of events suddenly panics Rachel, Stephan (Tom Wilkenson) and David (Ciaran Hinds), calling into question the success of that mission. The film then flashes back to 1966 when the three agents, then in their 20s (Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas and Tom Worthington), slip into East Berlin to capture Dieter Vogel (Jasper Christianson).
The casting is a head-scratcher: The Chastain/Mirren match is spot on, but if anything, Worthington should be playing the young Stephan and Csokas, the young David. It makes for a very confusing flashback. There are thrilling moments of espionage and psychological drama, but there is a contrived love triangle and tedious stretches where nothing happens. It’s worth seeing for the Mirren/Chastain performance alone, but it’s not without its flaws.
It's a 7.