Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Debt

When the new Mission Impossible film comes out (and I'll probably be a fan) one of its hallmarks will be that it has about five missions, and five huge set-pieces, and each one will be more explosive than the last, and by the end of the film it will all be a muddle as to what happened. The Debt, John Madden's remake of an Israeli thriller of the same name, is an example that a spy film, and a very good spy film, needs to have only one mission, one simple set-piece that can center a film. In this case, a trio of Mossad agents in the 1960s are sent to Berlin to kidnap and extract the surgeon of Birkenau, a notorious Nazi criminal. What happens on that mission reverberates for all their lives. I really enjoyed this one, in particular the aforementioned center of the film, the mission in Berlin. Less successful is the framing device, in which the agents are played by older (and much more famous) actors. Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, and Ciaran Hinds were all, not surprisingly, excellent, but the younger actors, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, and Martin Csokas, got the best part of the film.

The ending is a let-down but doesn't wreck what came before.

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