Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

The Debt

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 30th October 2011

The writers of Kick Ass have created an altogether more mature offering in the form of this historical spy thriller, no doubt influenced by their director, John Madden (best known for Shakespeare in Love and Mrs Brown).

Israel, 1966: three young Mossad agents return from a mission to capture and bring to justice a Nazi war criminal. Heralded as heroes for the next three decades, the truth about their time in Berlin comes back to haunt them in later life, causing upset and a requirement for loose ends to be tied up.

Flitting back and forth between past and present, the strong cast includes Helen Mirren and the ubiquitous Tom Wilkinson, with shining starlet Jessica Chastain (Tree of Life and The Help) and New Zealand’s Marton Csokas as their younger selves. Only occasionally do the Israeli accents belie the Antipodean within (Avatar‘s Sam Worthington has a pivotal role, though it’s weakly played) but it’s not hard to suspend your disbelief, and many of the set pieces manage to evoke (admittedly superior) counterparts like Munich. Chastain is particularly good, the scenes in which she inveigles her way into the medical practice of the Nazi-turned-gynaecologist serving to create incredible tension, and revulsion at what she must go through in the interests of duty. As the hunted doctor, Jesper Christensen (the shadowy Mr White in the recent James Bond movies) is manipulatively excellent.

Harking back to the days of old-fashioned spy thrillers, the plot is gripping and revelations unexpected. The aforementioned loose ends may be conveniently tied by the end, but the exercise itself shows passion and commitment to the cause.

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