Film Review: The Debt

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 26 Sep 2011

Originally scheduled for released last December, The Debt is one of a couple of films caught in limbo by Disney’s sale of studio Miramax, and after premiering at last year’s Toronto Intl. Film Festival, it’s fair to say it hits screens now with any wisps of buzz all pretty much gone.

Reunited in the modern day, three Mossad agents (Mirren, Hinds, Wilkinson) are thrown back to their life-altering exploits almost 50 years previous (Chastain, Worthington, Csokas), attempting to capture Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Christensen), and bring him to face justice in Israel.

Written by in-demand duo Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman alongside Peter Straughan, while The Debt boasts a nice concept, the plot never makes full use of linking between two time periods, and as such, ends up a disjointed mismatch of two halves, neither of which prove fulfilling enough on their own. The narrative would have been much better implemented cutting back and forth, rather than setting the scene, going back in time, before closing out the film again in the present day, but perhaps the director or writers backed out of the more ambitious approach.

In general the cast are effective bar a very limp Sam Worthington, it’s Jesper Christensen, however, that steals the show, if any were to be deemed standout performances. The problem is that there’s no real chemistry between them, from the agents in the present day or the past, the only effective relationships are instead from Dieter Vogel outwards.

In struggling to balance its twin-period narrative, The Debt won’t rejuvenate director John Madden’s career, which has certainly slowed up of late, though at least he does seem to be approaching the right sort of track and interest may now perk towards The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, as he returns to drama, if with a comedy twist. There, a chromic lack of pace won’t matter too much, but on this feature, even in the edge-of-your-seat moment, The Debt lacks any kind of intensity, really starting to drag towards the tail end of a 113-minute runtime.

The Debt is a reasonably entertaining if tired thriller that should have done a lot more with the potential o f its concept and subject matter. The plot could have great weight but it never makes use of it, while the revelations explored in the past, aren’t followed through in the present.


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