The Debt - Online Review

'overtly shows that today's spies are tomorrow's future; what hope for a world run by shadowy men whose history is that of deceit and violence'

Set aside the silly final twenty minutes and a ponderous section of locked-in drama in the middle and The Debt is more fun than you've been led to believe. A tense middle-ish segment following the impossibly pretty collective of Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas as they attempt to kidnap Jesper Christensen's Nazi doctor is top level spy game stuff and the stinging juxtaposition of the spiky Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and CiarĂ¡n Hinds interactions provides some nice meat in the setup.

Far beyond being just a film concerned with creating tension around spies and their world, this has hints of commenting on something deeper. Mossad's foreign actions in the post-war period (and after other events which saw Jews targeted) are well documented, as are the morals behind those actions and The Debt doesn't shy away from questioning them. Indeed, late on, it overtly shows that today's spies are tomorrow's future; what hope for a world run by shadowy men whose history is that of deceit and violence?

This message ends up marginalised and maligned beneath a finale reliant on Mirren's character Rachel, which messes up something which should have been so simple. There are two ways it can go and fairly simple ways to get to either of them but, inexplicably, director John Madden lets it get away from him, throwing up a needless conflict no-one needed to see and leaving a dissatisfied feeling where closure should have been so simple. By all accounts this sat, inert, on a shelf somewhere, untouched, for a long time. The biggest criticism you can level at the end is that it actually feels like a reshoot, such is the wavering of tone and grubby mishandling of the plotting.

It means that a film just a small amount away from being something special ends up being a small amount away from being nothing at all. You turn away from it with a shrug more than anything else and much of the good work that went before is forgotten. See it for the middle segment but beware what's hiding in the final act.




The Debt was playing on Sky Anytime Plus.

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