MOVIE REVIEW: Puzzle fuels espionage thriller ‘The Debt’

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

There’s a secret at the heart of “The Debt” that I can’t disclose, or it’ll ruin one of the best moments of the film.
The movie jumps back and forth in time between the late ‘60s and the late ‘90s. In the past, a three-person squad of Israeli operatives infiltrate East Berlin to kidnap a Nazi war criminal.
Based on Helen Mirren’s performance as the modern-day Rachel and the odd behavior of David (Ciarán Hinds), we suspect something about that kidnapping went wrong.
Jessica Chastain plays Rachel in the ‘60s. She pretends to be having problems conceiving a baby, so she can get closer to Dr. Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen). There’s an amplified vulnerability in the scenes with Rachel in stirrups, as the doctor asks probing questions that might or might not apply to her medical condition.
Sam Worthington plays the 1960’s David, a brooding man seemingly focused on revenge for Nazi atrocities, and Marton Csokas is Stephan, the team leader, who’s mainly interested in career advancement.
In the 1990s, Rachel and Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) spar over something, but it’s hard to tell exactly what that is. The emotional undercurrents don’t add up until their secret is revealed.
There are moments of action, but this is a brooding film, where the actors’ tell much of the story through their facial expressions. The strong cast handles the job well.
There’s something about “The Debt” that created an emotional distance for me. Maybe it’s the way the film moves back and forth in time – even events in the modern day don’t unfold in a linear fashion.
On the whole, “The Debt” is a puzzle. I wanted to see how all the pieces fit together, but one particular piece is missing at the end. I suppose the filmmakers wanted viewers to leave the theater with a little homework to do because I carried the film around with me for a couple of days.
I give “The Debt” a B minus.
It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo and the Malco in Corinth.
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