The Debt | Film review
Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas star as a group of covert Mossad operatives.
Like Defiance and Munich, The Debt belongs to an exciting but infrequently seen subgenre: the Semitic action movie. A remake of a 2007 Israeli drama, the film, through flashbacks, recounts the plan of an elite 1965 Mossad team to assassinate a former Birkenau surgeon working as a gynecologist in East Berlin. While probably not auditioning for the next production of Fiddler on the Roof, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas make a stalwart band of operatives (Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson play them in a later time thread). The early scenes, as they confirm their target’s identity and plot their escape, are gripping.
As long as it’s a straight-ahead spy picture, The Debt is much more entertaining than anything that awards-baiter John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Proof) has ever made; Chastain’s big gynecology-exam scene is a set piece to remember. But not content to trivialize its subject with simple movie pleasures, The Debt piles on the plot, in ways that change the stakes and are difficult to describe without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that when Mirren muses, “I haven’t been an agent for 30 years,” one wishes it would stay that way.