Monday, September 12, 2011

In the Movies: The Debt

While I am not a film critic or historian, I want to recommend The Debt, a gripping film that I caught over the weekend. Billed as an espionage thriller, the story begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (CiarĂ¡n Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by Israel because of the secret mission that they embarked on for their country back in 1965-1966, when their younger selves (Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) tracked down Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), a Mengele-like character known as the Surgeon of Birkenau, in East Berlin.

What could have been a pulpy revenge tale is actually refreshingly complex and rich with moral ambiguity and strong multi-dimensional Jewish characters. Without giving any of the twists and turns away, I think the most powerful moments took place when the Mossad agents were holding Vogel captive. While Rachel and David are revealed to have lost their families during the Holocaust, they are seen feeding and shaving Vogel with care and treating him like a human being. As David says, “Remember who we are and who we are not.”

Despite everything, at that moment they just want justice for their families and for Israel, and will not let the monster inside of Vogel infect them. I could tell you more, but I'd rather you see the film yourself for the superb acting and for the compelling story. View the trailer.

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