Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Debt (Rhoades)

“The Debt” Owes An Earlier Version
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

How do you get a 2007 Israeli thriller titled “HaChov” shown in American theaters? Apparently, the same way the characters in the movie capture Nazi war criminals: By taking on a disguise.

The original Assaf Bernstein film starring Gila Almagor (in the 1990s “present day” scenes) and Neta Garty (in flashbacks to the ’60s) was remade. This time around it’s called “The Debt” and Oscar-nominated John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” “Killshot”) is the director.

This espionage drama is told in both present and past. Three celebrated Mossad agents must confront their past actions in bringing a Nazi torturer to justice.

These intertwining timelines tell the story of how Rachael, Stefan, and David captured the demonic Dieter Vogel, who is passing as an East German GYN known as Doktor Bernhardt. A successful mission for which they receive high honors. But was it?

“The Debt” is currently revealing its spycraft and duplicity at the Tropic Cinema.

Past and present require a dual cast: Rachael is portrayed by both Jessica Chastain (“The Help”) and Helen Mirren (“The Queen”). Stefan is played by Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy”) and Tom Wilkinson (“Michael Clayton”). And David is played by Sam Worthington (“Avatar”) and Ciarán Hinds (“There Will Be Blood”).

Jesper Christensen (“Quantum of Solace”) is chilling as the war criminal known as the Surgeon of Birkneau. Kudos to the Danish actor who makes this Mengele-like character both loathsome and charming, a tour de force that matches the other strong performances by Helen Mirren and her younger counterpart Jessica Chastain. Yes, the same Jessica Chastain appearing as a Southern floozy in “The Help.”

You’ll find edge-of-your-seat suspense in “The Debt,” not to mention some shocking plot twists. You also have a love triangle, psych games aplenty, and “Munich” style action.

Makes me want to see “HaChov,” the forgotten film that this is based on. But, unfortunately, it only got a brief run on the Sundance Channel.
[from Solares Hill]

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