Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rated R for some violence and language
Like reading a good espionage novel “The Debt” for some will be a film they will not be able to keep their eyes off of, but unfortunately, also much like a good espionage novel, for others “The Debt” will be too niche of a subject matter to spark interest enough to remember the plot the next day. Directed by critically acclaimed director John Madden (Monday Night Football…I couldn’t resist), “The Debt” centers around three retired secret agents in 1997, Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren), Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson) and David Peretz (Ciaran Hinds). Upon a public reading of a novel about the trio’s famed mission in 1966, where they claim to have killed a high ranking Nazi war criminal in East Berlin, an “accidental” tragedy strikes one of the former agents. Furthermore, when suspicions begin to arise about the validity of the agent’s stories, we flashback to 1966 (where the trio is portrayed by Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas) to discover the truth of what happened on that mission, exploring how far people will go to protect what they hold true. Finally! A film that says lying is the best policy.
Compelling, with a myriad of twists and turns throughout, “The Debt” is held back by only one element, but unfortunately it is a critical element that will damage the overall success of a film like this nationwide. Like an addicting John Grisham (or Michael Connelly) novel, they may adapt well, but if you aren’t into Grisham (and alike) you will not be won over by the film from the get-go. As is with every good novel adaptation it is up to the director to either keep true to the novel, in the end running the risk of creating a niche film that may not find favor with a mass audience or adapting the novel into a more widely accepted Hollywood-ish version of the original source material. Madden does the former, and while he should be commended for taking the road less traveled (and doing an exceptional job at it), the movie will suffer in the box office because of it. What I am trying to say is that “The Debt” is bound to gain high first week box office numbers (mainly with the over 50 crowd) when the alternative is your “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star” type of films, but, despite it being an entertaining film, will sadly be a forgotten film in a matter of weeks.
There is some “A” class acting here from Worthington, the next big thing Jessica Chastain, Wilkinson and of course Mirren (who is constantly brilliant in everything she does). And the look of any John Madden film is superb and meant to be engaging, but sadly, “The Debt”, because it plays like a niche novel, is destined to be disregarded by the average American moviegoer, who doesn’t read and is not accustomed to spy stories riddled with substance and dialogue and excluding explosions. But take this film to a country where people actually read N-O-V-E-L-S and you have yourself a hit.
Final Thought: A movie which will win over those who see it more so for the performances and the direction, than the actual story (simply because of the final twist, which the entire story hinges on, isn’t as compelling as the first hour and a half would want you to think), “The Debt” is a movie that was made SPECIFICALLY for every fan of espionage novels and films. Honestly, there is nothing much to ridicule “The Debt” for, from a movie critics standpoint. The story is quite compelling, there are (what seems like) hundreds of twists and turns and moments that will have audiences guessing until the very end (thanks to some outstanding directing) and is worth checking out simply for the compelling entertainment value, but at the end of the day “The Debt” will not garner enough interest to keep it in the theaters for long, so see it while you can.
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