Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Debt

The Debt is a 2011 drama-thriller film directed by John Madden based on a screenplay written by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan. The film is a remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name by Assaf Bernstein. It stars Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Wilkinson and Marton Csokas.

In 1966, agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) arrives in East Berlin to meet with fellow agents David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas). Their mission is to capture Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), infamously known as "The Surgeon of Birkenau" for his horrific medical experiments on Jews during World War II, and bring him to Israel for trial.

Rachel becomes a patient at Vogel's OB/GYN clinic. At her third appointment, Rachel injects Vogel with a sedative during an examination and induces the nurse (Vogel's wife) to believe Vogel suffered a heart attack. Stefan and David arrive dressed as paramedics and make off with the unconscious Vogel in an ambulance, barely ahead of the real ambulance team. Under cover of night, the trio attempt their escape at Wallankstraße Station, on a rail line along the sector boundary between East and West Berlin. However, as they prepare to load Vogel onto the train, Vogel suddenly awakens and sounds the ambulance's horn, alerting East German guards to their presence.

The escape from East Germany is postponed and the agents have to wait ten days for a new extraction.  The agents take turns monitoring Vogel, who attempts to psychologically humiliate and intimidate them. During Rachel's watch, Vogel manages to loosen his binds and ambushes Rachel with a shard from a broken plate, permanently disfiguring her face. He escapes into the night as the agents are left to assess their failure. Panicked and hoping to save face for both himself and for Israel, Stefan convinces Rachel and David to go along with the fiction that Vogel was killed. They agree to lie and use the cover story that Rachel shot and killed Vogel as he tried to flee.

The agents become national heroes for their roles in the mission. After many years, information is obtained by David that Vogel may be alive and that a journalist plans to interview him.  This creates a moral dilemma for the agents.  The only solution appears to be to find Vogel and kill him before the journalist reveals the truth.

This is a well acted thriller with gut wrenching decisions facing the former agents. The lie has had profound impacts on all of them. Stefan has risen in the ranks of the Israeli government, Rachel's daughter has published a book on the capture, and David has spent the last 30 years searching for Vogel.

I like Helen Mirren and she delivers in this drama, but the real stars are the actors playing the young Mossad Agents.  Jessica Chastain is excellent as Rachel.  This movie will definitely keep you in your seat.  Get the popcorn ready.


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