Friday, September 9, 2011

The Debt

Movie Review : The Debt
Director : John Madden
Genre : Thriller / Drama
Starring : Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Sam Worthington, Jesper Christensen
Released : September 2011
My Rating : 7 out of 10

I rarely get to watch movies in a theater. When the opportunity came last weekend, there was only one choice suitable for my taste - "The Debt" by John Madden.

The story outline is very interesting. In 1967, 3 Mossad agents are in East German side of Berlin on a mission to capture an ex-Nazi - a German doctor who performed experiments on Jew prisoners. These are young, passionate, idealistic agents. They are not there to kill him, but to bring him back to face trial. In spite of their homework and thorough planning, things go wrong. They don't succeed in bringing the monster alive out of East Germany. Instead, they have to bring him back to their apartment and wait for more help.

We pick up the story 3 decades later. We learn that 2 of the agents - Rachel Singer and Stephen Gold -  had gotten married and later divorced. Their daughter has written a book about this assignment - the movie opens up during the publication of this book. The third agent, David Paretz, has returned to the country many years later. There is tension between all these characters, and we are led to suspect that there is more to their story than meets the eye.

The movie jumps back and forth between the 2 periods. But the jumps are not frequent, and they are not used to make things unnecessarily complicated. As a director, John Madden reveals his cards slowly. This approach will successfully grab viewers who are willing to pay attention and do some thinking on their own. And the payoff is worth it. There is enough drama and suspense, without much action and violence. As you can expect from the synopsis, this is not a spy thriller like a James Bond, or even Jason Bourne movies. There are many aspects to this movie. There is a romantic love triangle, and the brevity of its presentation makes it more effective than any love story we have seen lately. There is also a morality angle, but it's not handled as well as other aspects of the movie. What the movie really excels at is maintaining tension.

John Madden is known for his "Shakespeare In Love". I fell in love with his "Proof", a much better movie, I urge you to watch it, if for no other reason than Gwyneth Paltrow's acting. Even here, acting is top notch across the board. Interestingly, different actors play the characters from different periods. I liked it better than seeing the same actors with heavy makeup to change their age.

I thought it was a pretty good movie. My wife found it to be good as well, but she was not as impressed as me. I definitely recommend watching it, but you can wait for the DVD.

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