By: Oberst von Berauscht (Two Beers) –
In East Berlin during the mid 1960’s a team of three Mossad agents captured Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel, the so-called “Surgeon of Birkenau”. After a failed attempt to escape west with him, they held him in a slum apartment, waiting for their chance to extricate him toIsrael. Vogel eventually seized an attempt to escape, and is gunned down by agent Rachel Singer. While her marksmanship denied Vogel justice, the mission is deemed a success. Years pass, and for the public at large the three spies have become famous for their actions. But hidden among their achievements is a dark secret they have held onto for years, one which now threatens to become public knowledge.
Telling its story in a relatively non-linear fashion, The Debt deftly moves between a straightforward espionage story in the 1960’s, and the personal dramas those events touch off thirty years later. The Debt is a solid thriller, with an intriguing premise, brought to you by filmmaker John Madden.
Is there anything the bastard cannot do?
The cast handles the material admirably, particularly Jessica Chastain as the young Rachel. Her character is of a patriotic, dedicated individual who ultimately allows her emotions to best her, leading to the older Rachel (Helen Mirren) forced to live with her past mistakes. Jesper Christiansen is frightening to watch as the sociopathic Vogel. Though detained he remains defiant, and uses every opportune moment to torment his captors. Vogel has a psychological advantage over the three agents, as his past points to a heightened ability to shelve personal emotion in favor of cold indifference. As the passions and dramas inherent in humanity play out before him, he watches with mild amusement, all the while planning his move.
They will Nazi it coming
Clearly the filmmakers were trying to make a statement about the effects of living a lie. It also raises the question of just how important the truth is when it can potentially cause more harm than good. Rather than allow the audience the courtesy of making up their own mind, The Debt answers these questions abruptly and clumsily in the denouement. It is a shamefully “nail on the head” ending that is as predictable and tacked on as the rest of the film is not.
Ultimately The Debt has a lot of good going for it and meets with high recommendation, in spite of the anticlimax.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: anytime someone practices judo
Down a shot: for each scene in the rain
Take a drink: whenever a character loses his/her shit