THE DEBT

BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
DECEMBER 8, 2011

What came off as an action-packed thriller centered around fighting a list of Nazi war criminals one by one in a 1966 blaze of glory, “The Debt” mainly focuses on catching one criminal in particular and the consequences that follow. The story spans a few decades and thus reveals the need for a talented double-tiered cast.

As always, Helen Mirren is stone-cold in her role as the older version of Rachel Singer. The casting agents had to have faced a dilemma, however, when turning to cast the younger Rachel Singer, to find an actress that could fill her shoes. I could not have been happier with their pick. Jessica Chastain is an easy pick for a favorite breakthrough actress of the year, wowing in “The Tree of Life” and “The Help” and starring in yet another film considered for Academy Awards this year, “Take Shelter,” next to Michael Shannon. Chastain embodies a younger Helen Mirren with flair and finesse, bringing a fresh dynamic to the screen that has been void in most performances this year.

I am also impressed by Sam Worthington, who puts his muscles away for the role of David Peretz, finally showing an emotional side behind his hopped-up exterior. Worthington is not fighting terminators or avatars in “The Debt.” Instead, he is the awkward third wheel with an affinity for Rachel but no self-esteem to back it up, which makes the moments where he snaps the perfect turning points in the film.

Tom Wilkinson, who hardly shows up in the film, is an excellent addition, as well as Marton Csokas, who plays the third agent, Stefan Gold, the leader of the group of three.

Though “The Debt” is not the action film it was marketed to be, the rich, dramatic qualities of the film were far more impressive. Explosions and car chases could have ruined the movie. Instead, I was allowed to become invested in the characters, their relationships with one another, and ultimately, their sense of duty when finding and finishing the evil Nazi doctor.

RELEASE DATE
August 31, 2011

DIRECTOR
John Madden

WRITTEN BY
Matthew Vaughn
Jane Goldman
Peter Straughan

BASED ON
“Ha-Hov”
by Assaf Bernstein
Ido Rosenblum

STUDIO
Focus Features
Miraxmax

R
(for some violence and language)

DRAMA
THRILLER

113 minutes

CINEMATOGRAPHER
Ben Davis

COMPOSER
Thomas Newman

EDITOR
Alexander Berner

CAST
Helen Mirren
Sam Worthington
Jessica Chastain
Jesper Christensen
Marton Csokas
Ciarán Hinds
Tom Wilkinson

PRODUCED BY
Matthew Vaughn
Kris Thykier

BUDGET
$20 million

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