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125 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If The Debt were a book, it would be one bloody page turner
I saw an advance screening of The Debt tonight. I'll admit, it was a film I kept my eye on once I read about it on the IMDb message boards for Avatar some time ago, since Avatar was another film with Sam Worthngton. I remember it looking pretty interesting, however I'd not heard about it for some time after due to the delays. However during July, it had gotten advertised...
Published on August 24, 2011 by Renfield

versus
62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great cast but otherwise disappointing
The Debt (an American remake of a 2007 Israeli film of the same name) is best described as a story on two levels. On one level, it's a melodramatic espionage thriller that takes places in the 1960's, while on the other, it's a mystery that unfolds thirty years later, one that is centered around the events of the original espionage mission. The film cuts back and forth...
Published on October 8, 2011 by Whitt Patrick Pond


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125 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If The Debt were a book, it would be one bloody page turner, August 24, 2011
This review is from: The Debt [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I saw an advance screening of The Debt tonight. I'll admit, it was a film I kept my eye on once I read about it on the IMDb message boards for Avatar some time ago, since Avatar was another film with Sam Worthngton. I remember it looking pretty interesting, however I'd not heard about it for some time after due to the delays. However during July, it had gotten advertised more, and I was ready to mark down August 31st as a "must see" date. However when I got a pass in an Alliance Films giveaway, I was excited.

And thankfully this movie did not disappoint. The movie comes out next week, I'd say go see it.

A remake of the 2007 Israeli flick of the same name, which I'll admit to having not seen, The Debt follows two of three secret agents who went on a mission to capture the surgeon of Birkneau, and bring him to Israel to expose him for the crimes he committed against Jewish humanity during WWII. His horrifying experiments have left thousands dead in brutal and gory ways. The gang had a plan set in place, and according to a new book written about the ordeal, the mission was completed. However, something about the mission has come back to haunt them... And futhermore, that very some 30 years later, thing has the two remaining agents fearing for what happens next in life!

I don't want to give too much away, because believe me, the nervousness and suspense I felt throughout the movie is unmatched by any other film I saw this year. Believe me, this film is insanely well written. Matthew Vaughn of Kick-Ass and X-Men First Class fame wrote the script, and boy you can tell he did. His charm and genius are all over the film, in a different fashion than the two mentioned films, but his clever writing style is there. The dialogue is sharp and witty, the turn of events is clever. There's loads of suspense throughout the film. Seriously, not one scene had me feeling calm at all. The film was high octane, ferociously suspenseful thrill ride that had me on the edge of my seat from the first frame.

The film also has a great ability to surprise people, and believe me, this movie is filled to the brim with surprise and intrigue. The film's central twist is especially shocking. Believe me, the movie definitely toys with your expectations and perception of events in pretty much every way possible. But the central twist is especially a shocker, as it completely comes out of nowhere and strikes you blindly. At the screening, you could feel everyone tense up, and especially as the film reaches its shattering climax, the suspense just got more unbearable. However, there is some good Vaughn style humour thrown in there for good measure too.

The films' performances are fantastic. Helen Mirren shines as per usual as Rachel, and her young counterpart is not only very pretty but amazingly talented too. Jesper Christensen is amazingly scary as the villain, Vogel, and he does so without any gimmicks. But the real surprise is Sam Worthington as David. Believe me, he really, truly shines here. His portrayal is very convincing, and he manages to prove to the audience that he is not just a pretty face. As well as the film's direction is slick and sharp. madden has a fantastic eye for a shot, and it shows, there are a lot of moments of visual brilliance too, and some shots even look spooky at times.

In short, The Debt is the biggest surprise of the year, and a true shiner in a dark age for cinema nowadays. If you would like to watch a movie that for once isn't 3D, for once doesn't force feed you with gimmicks, don't pass up this full tilt action thrill ride. Although I saw it for free at a screening, I would have felt like my money was put to good use if I paid to see it too. Do not miss this film!

OVERALL: 10/10

Pros: The Debt is an action packed, unbearably suspenseful film that is remarkably well written, stylishly shot and ferociously thrilling, a film not to be missed.

Cons: None I can think of...
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A strong adult thriller with a great lead performance., September 2, 2011
By 
Sean Curley (Charlottetown, PE, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Debt (DVD)
Director John Madden had a smashing back-to-back period in 1997-1998 with "Mrs. Brown" and "Shakespeare in Love", but since then he has been unable to replicate that level of success. "The Debt", a remake of a 2007 Israeli thriller of the same name, is his best film since that period, and deserves a wider audience than it is likely to find in theatres after more than a year spent in limbo due to the difficulties of its distributor. Madden and his cast and crew deliver a very solid adult-oriented Cold War thriller. Spoilers follow.

Our story takes place both in East Berlin in 1966 and Israel in 1997 (I would estimate the split to be perhaps 70/30 in the favour of 1966). It opens with a book launch celebrating the exploits of three Mossad agents in killing a Nazi war criminal: agents Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), David Peretz (Ciaran Hinds) and Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson). We also see the mission in question, where the trio (played in 1966 by Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, and Martin Csokas) are tasked to abduct Dr. Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), the 'surgeon of Birkenau', from East Germany. It's not a great spoiler to say that this proves to be more difficult than originally anticipated.

There are no Jason Bourne-style moves here: Madden's depiction of special operations is very realistic, similar to the writings of John le Carre. The atmosphere is well-handled, particularly the 1966 segments, which believably depict the decayed East Berlin. The film's 1966 segments are at their strongest as a character drama, in the middle/late stretch where the three spies and their captive are confined to an apartment and forced to interact for an extended period as their options slowly seem to shrink.

The main reason to see this film is Jessica Chastain, who may be the breakout star of 2011, with no less than seven features to be released due to a backlog. In the past having this many films in a year can be dangerous (consider what 2004 did to Jude Law), but what is remarkable about Chastain's work this year is how different each performance has been so far. She was an ethereal, idealized mother in "The Tree of Life", then a goodhearted white trash housewife in "The Help"; now, in her first (and, I believe, only) lead role of the year, she plays a rookie field agent with depth and intensity. She compares favourably to Helen Mirren's portrayal of the older Rachel. The other standouts are Worthington, at last given a mainstream role where he can show his dramatic skills rather than be bland in an action film; and Christensen, who has a lot of fun as the detestable villain.

Recommended.
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62 of 75 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great cast but otherwise disappointing, October 8, 2011
By 
This review is from: The Debt (DVD)
The Debt (an American remake of a 2007 Israeli film of the same name) is best described as a story on two levels. On one level, it's a melodramatic espionage thriller that takes places in the 1960's, while on the other, it's a mystery that unfolds thirty years later, one that is centered around the events of the original espionage mission. The film cuts back and forth between these two story lines, with a different trio of actors portraying the three main characters in each story line.

In 1966, a trio of Israeli Mossad agents - Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas) - are sent behind the Iron Curtain in East Berlin to kidnap an escaped Nazi war criminal, Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christiansen), the infamous "Surgeon of Birkenau". The mission goes awry when, after successfully capturing Vogel, the plan to smuggle him out of East Berlin is disrupted and they are forced to go into hiding while they try to make other arrangements. It is while he is being held prisoner that Vogel overpowers Rachel and almost escapes, leaving her face grievously scarred in the process. But Rachel manages to shoot Vogel before he gets away, killing him, and the trio return to Israel as heroes and their mission becomes a Mossad legend. Later, Rachel and Stefan marry, for reasons that are quite frankly never made clear and end up having a daughter, and David decides to leave.

But in the current day (1997) story line, things are more complicated. Rachel (Helen Mirren) is being honored at a publication party for her daughter Sarah (Romi Aboulafia) who has written a book about her parents' legendary mission. Already visibly uncomfortable when asked to read a key passage from the book, Rachel becomes even more displeased when Stefan (Tom Wilkinson), now in a wheelchair and from whom she is completely estranged, shows up at the party, a situation clearly set up by Sarah who had told her mother than he wouldn't be there. At the same time, David (Ciaran Hinds) has also resurfaced, clearly troubled. And we begin to learn that there are cracks in the legend, and ultimately, that the legend is nothing but a self-serving lie that all three have lived with for the last thirty years.

I will acknowledge that my reaction to The Debt is in the minority as it was garnered a fair amount of critical praise, but that said, I found myself ultimately disappointed. I cannot fault the performances of the stellar cast, nor can I really fault the director, John Madden, beyond the pacing problem. I would probably lay the blame for my overall reaction with the script (the one done for the remake) which was written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman. I have not seen the original Israeli film on which it was based, but in reading the plot summary it appears that some substantial changes were made for this version and that, from what some reviewers say, the original was better. But that aside, for me the problem with The Debt lies in the fact that it requires some considerable suspensions of disbelief, and that, quite frankly, most of the characters are not particularly likeable or sympathetic. Stefan is a manipulative, self-centered ladder-climber whose only concerns are his ambitions and his career. And both Rachel and David are easily manipulated, in addition to forever vacillating in their feelings towards each other, towards Stefan, and inexplicably at times, towards Vogel. And in their older selves, they have not grown wiser so much as simply worse.

The pacing in the beginning is also something of a problem and I actually found myself falling asleep before things finally picked up with the abduction of Vogel. But even when things did pick up, I found myself not really liking it all that much. The characters were so flawed as individuals - and even more flawed as a team - it was difficult to accept the initial premise. I wouldn't have sent that crew around the corner to pick up a pack of gum, let alone behind the Iron Curtain to kidnap an escaped Nazi. And the fact that they weren't very sympathetic as individuals made the tepidly melodramatic love triangle subplot more tedious than anything else. I also found it difficult to believe that Vogel would've left Rachel alive before fleeing the apartment. Or that any competent intelligence officer would've simply accepted their story when they got back.

It also says something when the only halfway interesting scenes are the ones with the Nazi doctor, even when written as it is in the The Debt as something of a cliche. For that I'd have to credit the actor - Jesper Christensen - who manages to at least make his repellant doctor fascinating to watch - much like a particularly vicious caged rat - even if you've seen the basic character in countless movies before and the dialogue is just variations on the same old theme. That Christensen's Vogel, even with the clichés, was about the only thing in The Debt worth seeing, says a lot about the rest of the film. As does the fact that even having Vogel for contrast does not make the ostensible heroes particularly sympathetic.

Again, I recognize that my opinion is a minority one. If you read a review by someone you trust and they say see it, then go ahead. For myself though, I'd say The Debt is okay if you don't go in expecting much and if you can wade through the ramped-up self-inflicted angst the main characters wallow in for most of the movie.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chastain, Mirren's Powerful Performances Provide Audience Payback in "The Debt", September 5, 2011
This review is from: The Debt (DVD)
Debts take time, even generations, to settle. What we owe friends and loved ones often carries more urgency than those we'd eagerly pay enemies.

In John (not football coach) Madden's taut espionage thriller "The Debt," young Mossad agents Stephan (Marton Csokas), David ( Sam Worthington), and Rachel (an electrifying Jessica Chastain) felt they owed their families, countrymen, and the world the capture and trial of Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (an superb Jasod Christiansen), the near-demonic "Surgeon of Birkenau." Their meticulous plan falls apart, but Rachel's brave and resilient act ends Vogel's life.

At least they return with that story to their home country, becoming national heroes and inspiring Rachel's daughter's best-selling book on the event. It also became their near30-year secret until stunning news in 1997 draws out a now-retired Rachel (the always stunning Helen Mirren) as the only person to settle accounts not just for Vogel's victims but for her family. (Mirren sounds especially convincing telling her child's father, "I wanted to do something to make my daughter proud of me.") Their cohort, David, may have been owed the biggest debt: Vogel taunted him and his race years after murdering his family, and David took the guilt of the trio's secret to his grave.

"The Debt's" settings masterfully capture gray, decaying East Berlin under constant watch, tension, and cigarette smoke. Madden builds explosive action scenes from cramped, vulnerable backgrounds: the leaking apartment young Rachel cannot leave, the doctor's office where the Surgeon of Birkenau has her legs spread in stirrups. The 1997 scenes serve as character development and don't quite measure until the film's jaw-dropping conclusion. But Mirren's key scene getting needed information from an after-hours newsroom packs its share of humor and tension (sexual and otherwise).

"The Debt" is a sturdy, grown-up spy, revenge film, with Chastain and Mirren providing a femimist twist. Their thoughtful, even athletic performances settle the imagination it takes to see both actresses as one character(especially when dealing with David as lover, then martyr). In a dwindling summer film season of sequels, special effects, and over-the-top acting, "The Debt" pays the audience its best returns.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A smart, insightful movie., February 22, 2012
This review is from: The Debt [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I finally watched "The Debt," a movie that had been on my radar for some time but one I seemed to just not find the time for. It was, for me, something of a struggle to figure out the bones of the plot during the opening scenes. The time-shifting elements and younger/older casts members requires some up-front attention, and some odd casting choices are just confusing. The pairing of the two younger men and the two older men characters seem backwards, and I could not figure at first which older character was the future version of which younger one.

The story is fascinating, how the deeds and nondeeds of the past have powerful repercussions, and how choices made seem the right ones on the surface while the underlying truth is another matter. I think there are enough plot recaps and summaries among the other 80-plus reviews here that I don't need to venture there. Be prepared to keep focused while watching "The Debt," and be prepared when it messes with your head later. It does not lead to pleasant dreams but this is a smart, insightful movie.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karma has a way of seeking you out, September 17, 2011
This review is from: The Debt (DVD)
Seeing Jessica Chastain in both The Help, and Tree of Life.

Director John Madden directed Shakespeare in Love which won 7 Academy Awards including, Best Actress for Gwyneth Paltrow, and Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench. He directed a favorite of mine, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, starring Nicholas Cage, Penelope Cruz, And Christian Bale.

I have also seen original movie The Debt [ NON-USA FORMAT, PAL, Reg.2 Import - United Kingdom ].

In 1965, a Mossad agent played by Jessica Chastain, crosses Checkpoint Charlie and joins two male agents in East Berlin, to identify and kidnap Birkenau's notorious surgeon, now a gynaecologist. Rachel is recruited not for her field experience but for her language skills. She must pose as his patient, allow intimate probings by hand and speculum, and take close up photos without arousing suspicion.

Mossad agents abducted Eichmann in Argentina in 1961, tried him in Israel, and executed him. Notorious Dr Mengele, butcher of Auschwitz fled to South America, narrowly escaping capture by Mossad in Argentina fleeing to Paraguay, then Brazil. Birkenau as known also as Auschwitz Birkenau. Twenty four surgeons performed unnecessary experiments on human captives, often without anaesthetic.

Photographs of the surgeon's terrible deeds haunt her and fill her with apprehension and fear. Photographs of smiling babies decorate his waiting room wall. A man who once took life from the world, now charged with bringing life into the world.

Her legs in stirrups, vulnerable, afraid, as he probes her he asks probing questions, about her unfamiliar accent, her mother, how she found him. It's weird, tense and gripping. He gives her sex advice, and injections to help her become pregnant. Meanwhile, back at the house her desire grows for the sensitive agent, who though attracted is closed off, and a romantic triangle develops. You may wonder if the doctors advice will pay off.

As the mission goes wrong, three agents and their captive are forced to remain in same house. He would rather escape than die, and rather die than face trial. He senses weakness in the relationships of his captors, and in their psyches, and pushes their psychological limits. He says shocking things. "You jews don't know how to live, you onl;y know how to die." "You are veek"

As tensions mount, great psychodramatic moments unfold. It's strangely intimate. He finds Rachels weak spot and as she shaves him with a cutthroat razor in that strangely intimate way a girlfriend might shave her lover, tears stream down her porcelain cheeks. He pushes David's weak button. She goes to the bathroom to throw up. When David,the sensitive one replies, 'you are a monster,' you can notice from his facial expression that he gets off on it. He plays them like violins. 'She is with him but it's you she wants. When she kisses him she thinks of you.' He reads her mind, guesses her real name, intuits her condition. These are the most absorbing movie moments.

The doctor succeeds with his violent goal. They return to Israel, with an invented truth, and a heavy secret. Thirty years later that secret will force Rachel out of retirement, so real truth can remain secret.

The Debt is part suspense, part thriller, part psychodrama, its parts stirred by three great acting performances.

Jessica Chastain as the lead is incredible, with a face crafted by the cinematic gods, one of the best new talents I have seen. I was totally wowed by her performance. At a restaurant nights ago, no one at my dinner table knew who she was. Pretty soon everyone will know who she is. She has four movies yet to be releassed this year. I could not imagine anyone else doing this role as well, except perhaps a young Helen Mirren.

Jesper Christensen delivers an astounding performance as the doctor, perhaps I am supposed to feel shock and outrage, yet I found it gripping and strangely delicious to watch the psychological cat and mouse game between him and her.

Helen Mirren, shows a much harder edge as the older Rachel, always a gripping presence, and I would be surprised if she is not nominated for best supporting actress.

I love movies with a heroic female protagonist. When plans go awry, it is she who steps out of shadows looking for light, she who ventures into stirrups, she who fights. She feels the fear and does it anyway. She is an everywoman required to do dangerous things. Other movies with great female protagonists would be Black Book, and The Girl Who Played With Firemovies. I wish Hollywood would make make more movies like these. These are European movies.

If you're like me, you may wonder what exactly is meant by the debt? Is it generational? Is it karmic? Will the truth set us free?

We can ask if there is a moral equivalence in entering another country to seize someone illegally so they can face a legal trial. How legal would such a trial be? Let us remember there may be times when special forces need to go on a secret mission to find an elusive terrorist, perhaps in Pakistan, reponsible for thousands of civilian deaths, and a continuous threat. Those who live by the sword die by the sword.

If you want to see original The Debt (subtitled), there are story differences. In particular there is a scene where she shaves him, where he says 'why don't you kill me?' where she gives an interesting response, not in the remake. I prefer the more clear cut ending n the original.

If you love this, recommend Munich (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) by Spielberg, an excellent thriller and story about Mossad agents responding to the massacre at the Munich Olympics which won five Oscar nominations including Best Picture, where Ciaran Hinds also plays Mossad agent, and Best Adapted Screenplay, and The Readerwhich won five Academy nominations including Best Picture, and an Oscar for Kate Winslet, because both have thematic similarities, and Black Book, which I own, a Verhoeven movie.

I don't think there has ever been been an Oscar given or even a nomination to two actresses playing the same character in the same movie. It would make a good story, would it not? I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A STAR IS BORN, December 8, 2011
By 
This review is from: The Debt (DVD)
While Helen Mirren gets top billing and delivers her usual top-notch performance, the real "star" of THE DEBT is Jessica Chastain. Chastain brings a remarkable sense of sensitivity, strength and vulnerability as the younger version of Rachel Singer. This rising star certainly has a bright future if this performance is any indication. Marton Csonka who plays the younger Stephan is also quite effective and AVATAR's Sam Worthington displays some serious acting chops as the doomed David. The cast also boasts the estimable talents of Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds and the chilling performance from the actor playing the villainous surgeon (Sorry I can't find the actor's name!!).
Oscar winning director John Madden focuses on the complexity of the characters and the intricacies of the plot. THE DEBT is slow-paced but riveting in its exploration of deceit and its consequences. It is disturbing at times yet strangely inspirational. Recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fairly boring, March 17, 2012
By 
N. Gregg (Kansas City, KS United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Debt (DVD)
I was really looking forward to seeing this movie - but I have to say I was disappointed.

I was expecting much more excitement, but there was very little of that. Helen Mirren's character is fairly dull and reserved and even boring. I'm not sure if it's the story or the acting/directing that fell thru the cracks here, but the movie overall just didn't cut it. I would not recommend this.

[I even watched it a 2nd time to see if perhaps I didn't like it the first because I had too high of expectations for it...but it was still borderline boring with a few tense scenes - just not worth it]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Top notch spy thriller, December 19, 2011
By 
This review is from: The Debt [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The story revolves around 3 Israeli Mossad operatives who infiltrate Soviet held East Berlin to capture a former Nazi doctor. He had performed gruesome experiments on Jews during the War. The film begins in 1997 with Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) celebrating the release of her daughter's book about the events leading up to Dr. Christensen's capture. As Rachel reads a passage from the book to the audience, her mind and the movie revert back to 1966 when she (now portrayed by Jessica Chastain) and her partners, David (Sam Worthington) and Stefan (Marton Csokas) plan the doctor's kidnapping. Their plan is to return him to Israel for trial.

The film does a few flips back to the current time to force us to realize that things are not what they seem. Rachel's former husband, Stefan (now played by Tom Wilkinson) is concerned about David (now played by Ciaran Hinds) for some reason. Most of the film involves the capture. It is grippingly thrilling for the most part. A subplot involving the romantic triangle comes into play and is important as we will find out in the more recent time period. Without giving too much away, there are loose ends that must be tied up. The 3 older actors are brilliant as usual and the 3 younger ones hold their own. I am especially taken with Chastain who we saw recently in "The Help". She is a real comer. Directed by John Madden, "The Debt" is a top notch spy thriller with enough twists and turns to keep us guessing.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Was this a spy movie?, February 11, 2012
By 
This review is from: The Debt (DVD)
I have rarely seen such a horrible movie that actually looked good in the previews. This movie follows three Mossad agents who spend the entire movie whining over who did what and who is to blame. They are tracking down an aging Nazi doctor who must have gotten his hands on Captain American's super serum. Every time he's on camera he's doing something to overpower, outwit or dismantle all three agents.

Towards the end of the movie, when the doctor is nearly 90 years old and living in a ramshackle Ukraine retirement home he attacks and overcomes one of the agents, who is not about 50. Keep in mind this man was a doctor. He had no combat training, yet he easily trounces a career secret agent from one of the world's most effective and dangerous intelligence agencies.

Who writes this nonsense?
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The Debt [Blu-ray]
The Debt [Blu-ray] by John Madden (Blu-ray - 2011)
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