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Director: John Madden
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington
Running Time: 113 minutes
Genre: Spy | Action
Two sides to the Mirren...
I know this is going to be an unpopular view, a view that may make me lose credibility from a few of you out their; but I am in the 3% of critics who did not enjoy ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’, I know, I know...scandalous! Hear me out. It was just a tad, dry for my tastes. It’s a fantastic actors piece but I’d by lying if i found myself to be entertained by the bland storytelling that was on offer. ‘The Debt’, however, is a spy thriller that is right up my street. With constant red herrings, left turns and some genuine intrigue. ‘The Debt’ is the best bet!
In this gritty spy thriller, Helen Mirren plays a retired Mossad agent named Rachel. Once upon a time, Rachel was part of a celebrated trio of secret agents who tracked down a Nazi war criminal in East Berlin in 1966 -- an incident so applauded in history, that now, three decades later, her own daughter has just published a book about the exploits. But one of Rachel's former partners in espionage, David (Ciarán Hinds), seems less than reverent about his memory of the time, and he proves his feelings with a decision that sends Rachel and her other former partner, Stephan (Tom Wilkinson), on a forced revisit through time. For 30 years, Rachel has been living one truth, but now, as the past collides with the present, a new and deadly story begins to emerge.
Even at its slowest points, ‘The Debt’ is always interesting. The story packs in enough initial intrigue in and of itself that the extra twists and turns only make a good movie that much better. The underlying story itself id rather simple, it’s the way the film plays with the truth that hooks you in. Without revelling too much, I will say that ‘The Debt’ attempts several times to throw you off track planting devious red herons throughout. Making the experience that much more interesting. Heightening this are extremely well written, interesting characters as well as snappy; and a t time genially funny, dialogue.
With this kind of film, tension is key; thankfully Madden does a stellar job at keeping that the main focal point of his direction. Ever single scene wreaks apprehension and you’ll find yourself gasping for air during some of the more intense scenes. One involving Jessica Chastain and a gynaecological exam is especially nerve shredding. The none linear set –up adds for some wonderful twists and turns and it’s a miracle (or just skilful direction) that I never found myself lost in the labyrinth that is the plot.
The acting is, naturally, sublime. Newcomer Jessica Chastain deserve all the critical acclaim she’s been getting as she almost, just almost, upstages the Queen, erm...I mean Helen Mirren. Everybody does a fantastic job. If I had an issue however, it would be with some of the casting of the older version of the agents. Sam Worthington’s future self (Ciarán Hinds), couldn’t look less like his young self. It creates a major disconnect from both versions of the character and can become a tad confusing at times. Regardless, this is top notch acting.
The film looks and sounds great, top notch for authentic set dressing and consuming while the fights are brilliantly choreographed with bone crunching results. It can be a tad drab, with the majority of the second act taking place in one location – but once we’re done with that the film continues to surprise you with beautiful vistas and some intense filmmaking.
Verdict: Tense, taught and tough as nails. Call me crazy but ‘The Debt’ is the films I wanted ‘Tinker Taylor’ to be. It’s not without problems, some strange casting choices can leave audience members confused at times and the ending may feel a bit too played out for trained cinefile’s; but as a whole ‘The Debt’ is one of the most solidly enjoyable movies I’ve seen all year. Stellar performances, a brilliantly written script and, come on...who can hate a movie where Nazi hunters are your protagonists?
+ Exciting, fast paced, and always interesting.
+ All of the actors are stunning.
+ Does a great job at keeping your brain awake with red herrins and left turns.
+ Great plotting and dialogue.
- Some of the casting doesnt make sense