Helen Mirren in The Debt (2010)

Finishing the Job

In 1965 a team of Mossad agents; Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain), David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas) arrive in East Berlin on a mission to capture Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) and extract him back to Israel. Masquerading as a patient at the clinic where Vogel works Rachel drugs him and they manage to capture him but things go wrong when he manages to escape and the three young agents decide to report back that they killed him, in doing so making them heroes. That is not the only things which happened in East Berlin during 65 as Rachel fell in love with David but after being rebuffed slept with Stefan and ended up pregnant. Now 32 years later and the past still haunts them especially Rachel (Helen Mirren) who has always been uncomfortable living the lie having had a failed marriage to Stefan and now being held as a hero in a book which her daughter has written. But the past rears its ugly head and Rachel having long been retired may have to return to service to finish the job.

That synopsis simplifies "The Debt" in many ways none more so by telling you what happens in a linear manner which is not what you get from the movie itself. By that I mean we are presented with a story which switches between times and events in those times, so it opens with the three agents returning to Israel in 1965 as heroes, a bandage clearly seen on Rachel's cheek and then we jump to 1997 and a book launch party where we meet the older Rachel, now played by Mirren. But then it returns to events in 1965 and an earlier event as Rachel arrives in the country. It isn't that "The Debt" is complex but represented in a manner which frankly is too jumpy for my liking.

Jessica Chastain in The Debt (2010)

Anyway as to the story well what we get are the events of 1965 and are trio of agents undercover in East Berlin on a mission to capture and extract Vogel. Watching them go about this and how things don't run smoothly is interesting as it has atmosphere, action and drama. But at the same time we have the complications of a love triangle forming as Rachel fancies David but ends up sleeping with Stefan and falling pregnant.

But then what we get are the consequences of 1965 as are 3 agents chose to lie over Vogel's escape and in the case of David and Rachel struggle to live with that lie even after 30 years. We also see the consequences of the love triangle as we discover that Rachel and Stefan married but it struggled as it was clear that Rachel still was in love with David. All of which leads to... well as I said a job which needs to be finished and there are some surprises along the way.

All of which makes for a fascinating thriller which due to its jumpy nature forces you to watch and pay attention as you want to not only understand how things have got how they are in 1997 but the also the unfolding events of 30 years earlier are just as involving and powerful. When Rachel masquerades as a patient and has to have an intimate examination by the doctor you can sense her repulsion at being touched by the hands of a killer. There are many more powerful scenes and we do get a real mix of action and drama

What this all boils down to is that "The Debt" is a fascinating and well made drama with a mix of elements which draw you in to the unfolding situation. It isn't perfect and at times too jumpy in the way it flits between times and events but even then it works to draw you in to the unfolding drama.