If there's one thing that I have learned in this world, it's that no one deserves a beating quite like the Nazis. I believe that Mossad secret agents get a free pass to take care of business--heck, even the American Jews in Inglourious Basterds get lumped into that bunch. The films that are made on the topic are generally an exercise in just how vehemently one can strike the air with their fist and cry, "Go get ‘em!" (That can't be just me, right?) The Debt is no exception, although I have to mention that for anyone interested in the film, too much information is detrimental to the experience. It's best just to go and see what happens. If you are desperate for details, continue on.
In 1967, three Israeli spies were sent on a mission to kidnap the Surgeon of Birkenau so he could be brought to trial for his war crimes. Rachel Singer (portrayed as a young woman by Jessica Chastain, with the older version being Helen Mirren) joined Stephan (Marton Csokas/Tom Wilkinson) and David (Sam Worthington/Ciaran Hinds), in what the world knows as a successfully executed assignment. In 1997, Rachel and Stephan's daughter Sarah (Romi Aboulafia) has written a book chronicling their heroism. With its release comes an unwelcome reopening of the wounds for the three military legends.
This movie relies solely on a clever story to keep you hanging on--there are no gimmicks or tricks here. There's no Brian De Palma-esque sensationalism; it feels more like The Usual Suspects but with Helen Mirren carrying pistols and hypodermic needles (in other words, completely hot). Even Sam Worthington, whose previous films (Avatar, Terminator Salvation, and Clash of the Titans) didn't require "acting" in the traditional use of the word, uses this good script as an excuse to show that he can hold his own among the big boys and girls.
Everything that threatened to take me out of the movie quickly disappeared thanks to the compelling story. For instance, the narrative jumps back and forth from 1997 to 1966 in flashbacks, and it starts out a little clunky. On top of that, the audience is supposed to buy that Sam Worthington could age and become Ciaran Hinds after many decades and a restless soul--which is next to impossible. However, as the story took root, I abandoned those small issues and let myself get swept away. Soon, I found myself blurting out "Oh no she DIDN'T," along with other various exclamatory outbursts. No one is more surprised than I am that the guy who directed Captain Corelli's Mandolin could actually win my forgiveness.
To pull off a thriller like this, there has to be some kind of deeper conflict going on to give the action more weight. The Debt had that, and reminded me that it's easy to take for granted that as everyday citizens, we can often separate our personal lives from work with relative ease. When this mission intertwines both the agent's hearts as well as their duty to the world, the shockwave affects their entire existence.