The Debt reviewed
As a customer of pay-TV and frequent movie-flyer, I do get to watch all kinds of films, young and old, good and bad. There are always those which I have never even heard of before and The Debt (2011) is one of those unheard-of movies. Sometimes they surprise me, other times I can't help but think now I do know why I haven't heard of them before.
There is a seven yawn limit before I turn them off. The Debt got close to it, about 5 1/2, then it caught some wind. I like Helen Mirren, I like Tom Wilkinson, and I like spy thrillers. It started out really slowly, reminiscient of the 90s-cinema pacing, which always makes me feel a bit nostalgic. The last one in this genre I really enjoyed was Fair Game, and it started out slowly as well.
We zoom in. It's Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) at a party, her daughter's book release. Rachel is asked to read an excerpt from it. The viewer is taken into the story she reads. 1965. A gagged man lies in a corner while a young woman puts pots on the floor - rain is dripping from the ceiling of the run-down apartment. We immediately get the feeling that he is a bad guy.
She goes into the kitchen. The water trickles in each of the pots with annoying reliability. Pling-plong-plung. Pling-plong-plung... Then suddenly, something happens. Pling.....plung - the plong is missing and we know that something went terribly wrong!
She goes back to the room and one of the pots is knocked over. The gagged man is not in his corner anymore. He has freed himself and tries to run down the stairs and away from the apartment, but the woman shoots him in the back before he is able to escape. He's dead.
As we zoom back to Rachel, we realize that this was her story, that she was the woman who shot the man. She apparently is a Mossad agent- uh-oh. The gagged man was Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), a camp physician who did horrible things to the prisoners of the KZ Birkenau - aah.
On a sidenote: I realize that we'll probably never ever get tired of Nazis in movies. In the land of film, Nazis are what sharks are for National Geographic Wild documentaries: the beasts that keep up the ratings.
- Cut. David is obsessing over the musical score of the film. We have to replay certain scenes over and over to find out why he hates Thomas Newman's uninspired tootling. After the umpteenth time I want to shout enough already; but I don't. Yes, that's how supportive I am. -
Anyways, after realizing the bigger picture, we dive into the past once again to witness the planning and execution of Vogel's kidnapping. Needless to say that what happened has consequences for Rachel's life as it is now, and she, the elderly and long retired agent has to go on one last mission that is tied to the events of the kidnapping. Sorry, I can't give you more info without spoiling the plot - and this movie has some rather nice and unexpected twists halfway through and at the end which I wouldn't want to give away.
This is one of those movies that I scarcely recommend - if you're interested in the genre, Helen Mirren and the directing hands of John Madden. If you don't mind a bit of time-shifting confusion in the beginning then you just might be the right candidate to enjoy it. I liked the second half of it.
P.S. The trailer actually doesn't give anything away, except the general cinematic style of this movie, and the "action" aspect of it, the one thing which actually is responsible for 3 out of those 5 1/2 yawns...