The Debt Directed by: John Madden Cast: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson Running Time: 1 hr 54 mins Rating: R Release Date: August 31, 2011
PLOT: Retired Mossad agents Rachel (Mirren), Stefan (Wilkinson) and David (Hinds) look back on a mission they undertook in 1966 when they tried to track down a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin.
WHO'S IT FOR? It's a top-notch intelligent thriller, with great drama and a touch of romance.
EXPECTATIONS: I saw the poster and saw the cast, that's all I knew. I didn't even know Mirren and Chastain both play Rachel at different times in her life.
ACTORS: Helen Mirren Rachel Singer: Dignity. That's what I feel Mirren gives any character she plays. You can tell Rachel doesn't want to be here (wherever "here" is in this film). She's uncomfortable at her daughter's book signing, and uncomfortable at the talk show toward the end. When she's called upon to do a little action, she takes the role to new heights. Score: 9
Jessica Chastain as Young Rachel: Yeah. I'm falling for Chastain. How can I not? She's three for three this summer (The Tree of Life, The Help, and now The Debt). Maybe she'll always be this great, maybe she'll only be good in movies that start with "the," but for now, I'll just enjoy the ride. Chastain has a dimple on her chin, otherwise she carries herself like Mirren, and they definitely sound a like. Chastain has freedom in the role of young Rachel to have a different attitude and she's really good at being a first time field agent. Also, she can throw a punch. Score: 10
Sam Worthington as Young David: It's my favorite performance of his career (that I've seen). What's funny is, he's not doing a lot different compared to dealing with Zeus or those blue Avatar things. He's still brooding. He's still quiet and chooses his moments with care. It's better surroundings and a script that allows this to slowly happen. There is more weight to his role and having Ciarán Hinds play the older version only helps the situation. Score: 8
Tom Wilkinson/Marton Csokas as Stephan Gold: If you need help, Wilkinson is the older Stephan. Csokas is like a young George Clooney, just talking about charisma. Even with that, Stephan isn't the one who Rachel is drawn to. Once Stephan gets old, he has an air of expectation that Wilkinson brings to light. My only tiny negative with this is that Csokas and Hinds look a little more alike. Score: 8
Jesper Christensen as Vogel: He's the doctor who is suspected to have done unspeakable acts during World War II. I loved everything about Christensen's performance. He chews up the scenes whether it's with Rachel in the doctor's office or after he's kidnapped and fed like a child. I didn't even recognize him from Casino Royale. Score: 10
TALKING: Pain, regret, missed opportunity and guilt are on full display through half-spoken sentences. They do a good job of not overdoing any moment. They always leaving us with wanting more conversation in a good, tense way. Score: 9
SIGHTS: Seriously, don't you think Csokas and Hinds look alike? Everything screams period piece when they're in the '60s. Nothing looks out of place. The hand to hand combat in this film might be some of the best action of all year. Score: 8
SOUNDS: Tense. When we cut from scene to scene the music gets turned up a notch and helps with the thrills. It's a nice addition. Score: 8
BEST SCENE: Because of flashbacks, we know Vogel is going to try and escape, but seeing this from a new perspective sheds a completely new light on the entire movie and made me audibly gasp.
ENDING: Listen to Rachel's story that she tells over and over again to the press, the soldiers, everyone who wants to listen. It makes this ending brilliant.
QUESTIONS: Should they have filled in Chastain's dimple, just because Mirren didn't have one? Yeah, that's how little the complaints are with this one. For all other questions, you can check out my interviews with Mirren, Chastain and Sam Worthington's beard. OK, the rest of Worthington was there as well. It wasn't just his beard.
REWATCHABILITY: Yes. I think it will be nominated for some awards and therefore I'll be getting a screener. This is also one of those movies I'll make sure my wife watches.
Intense. That's right. It's so tense that it's INtense. The Debt takes place over two time periods, involves many cast members, and feels long. Don't get me wrong, none of those things are actual complaints. It's never boring. It feels like a really good three-hour experience when you're done with this film, yet it's only two hours long. The cast is superb. We get Worthington's best, continued greatest from Mirren and Wilkinson, the newcomer Chastain keeping her streak live and a scene stealer with Christensen.
The Debt is one of the best movies I've seen in 2011. Invest your time and money in this movie.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10