Saturday, 9 March 2013

No.75 : The Debt





The Debt at the IMDb

A bit of ‘secrets and lies’ now as Helen Mirren tries a funny accent and keeps her clothes on - Boooo!

Helen plays Rachel, a Mossad agent, who is celebrated in her homeland for killing a Nazi war criminal in the 1960s in East Germany. The mission is coming back into the public consciousness as Mirren’s daughter has written a book about it and the launch sees Mirren and her fellow agents reappraise past events.

Mirren does a reading from the book and we flash back to witness her shooting their fleeing captive after he manages to get free, leaving her with an ugly facial scar. All is not well however when one of her fellow agents jumps in front of a truck on the way to the reunion and another has gotten wind that their 30 year old secret may be falling apart.

Mirren’s wheelchair bound ex-partner and fellow agent discuss the death of their friend and his motivation for this. We flash back again to the start of the mission and see how the rookie Rachel posed as a wannabe mother so she could get a closer look at the alleged Nazi surgeon - not as close as the look as her gets of her, given he’s working as an obstetrician.

They manage to capture their man but after a bodged escape they are left in their grotty flat for ten days while the Israelis plan their way home. The evil Nazi doctor begins to plant seeds of dissent between the flatmates and after stealing a plot point from ‘Breaking Bad’ he escapes. The three agents agree that they’ll keep the lie that they killed the Nazi and disposed of the body - secure in the knowledge that the Nazi would lie low.

Alas, the best laid plans fall apart as you’d expect, as the wheelchair bound ex-agent Tom Wilkinson finds out that a Ukrainian hospital patient is claiming to be the undead Nazi - and not in a fun zombie way. With one agent dead and the other in a wheelchair it’s up to Helen to travel to the Ukraine and try out her handy fluent Ukrainian and see if she can pay the debt she’s been living off for 30 years.

This was a pretty workmanlike thriller but it had a lot to like. The narrative flow jumped back and forth and the payoff from the ‘real’ telling as opposed to the ‘fictional’ one was signalled some way off. Given they reused a lot of the footage there was a sense of deja-vu but it was well worked with the tension racked up as the world closed in on them.

The flashback to the mission took the best part of an hour and although 1965 East Germany was well realised it did drag a bit - we all knew a debt was going to be incurred and that it’d be up to Helen to pay it off so it took a bit long to get there. I did enjoy the scene with the evil doctor as he probed his patient and would be captor both literally and mentally. Jesper Christensen, who you’ll know as ‘Mr White’ from ‘Quantum of Solace’, was excellent as the malevolent medic , with evil pouring from every loaded statement.

Mirren did her usual class act, although her Russian heritage showed in her Ukraine scenes and her lack of an Israeli one did so equally when she put on their accent. Tom Wilkinson did his usual angry routine and it was a shame we didn’t see more of Ciaran Hinds who must be the worst ‘Frogger’ player in history.

The film avoided preaching too much about the rights and wrongs of what transpired, but that tended to leave you somewhat unsympathetic towards the characters all of whom where aloof and distant. It was a well played and directed film but it could have used a tighter edit and maybe a bit more humanity to allow us to invest in the characters. There again maybe an investment in ‘The Debt’ is best avoided!

THE Tag Line - We Always Get Our Man - Eventually   71%

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