Dave White
The Debt Review

Dave's Rating:


Secret Agents and Lies

I have a complicated relationship with spoilers.

When you write about movies it can become impossible to explain a film without giving away minor details. Sometimes a movie is so awesomely rotten, like in a way that must be seen, that spoilers really just become selling points. More weirdly, people will often make a big deal out of a spoiler that isn't even all that relevant to the movie's quality -- for example, it doesn't matter much if you know beforehand that, in The Crying Game, the lady has a penis. It's beside the point. However, sometimes you're just being a bad guy if you squeal on the Big Secret.

All of that to say this: There's a Big Secret going on in this movie. And it's kind of a cool Big Secret. Yet how it's revealed and resolved ruins the movie. So even though I want to tell you all about that ruination, to do so would wreck the Big Secret. But I can tell you that this black-and-blue-and-gray bummer of an undercover-intelligence-operative morality play hinges on an event that took place in the 1960s, when Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas were Mossad agents tracking a Nazi war criminal, and that it gravely effects the 1997 version of their aged selves, played by Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson.

And by gravely I mean boringly and unmemorably.

Everything here is respectable and solid. The direction by Shakespeare in Love's John Madden rolls along like an earnest lead tank filled with melted down Academy Awards and the performances are the kind of somber work you expect from the stars involved. That is, if no one's pushing them to be anything more than what you expect. And the script's weak, timid handling of the Big Secret on which the moral weight of the plot hinges will only succeed in causing your thoughts to wander to how much more entertained you'd be if you were watching something like The Unborn.

Yes, The Unborn, in spite of how it also features a Holocaust-era mystery, is garbage. And comparing it to this movie is like pitting an apple against a totally rotten apple. But at least The Unborn knows it's garbage, so when that movie's creepy kid says, "JUMBY WANTS TO BE BORN NOW," it's actually a more genuinely real moment than all the furrowed brows and sorrowful mumbling about the nature of truth that this one lays out like a fancy pre-Oscar-night buffet.

You can line up for it if you like, maybe as a sort of late summer movie protest vote. But you'd be better off just waiting for the real Oscar movies to come along. At least one of them is going to star Helen Mirren, too. They always do.


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