The Debt (2011), Rated-R, 104min
In 1997, retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) find out about their former teammate, David (Ciarán Hinds)'s death. All three have been praised for decades by their country because of the mission that they took back in 1966, when they (portrayed by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) hunt down Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen) in East Berlin. The team's mission was accomplished successfully...except there is a big secret that those three only know about...
It is nice to see a film like The Debt, a classic, serious spy thriller. Sometime it's fun to watch action packed spy thrillers such as Jason Bourne series or say something like Mission Impossible. But sometime those movies can't beat the seriousness and the heaviness of real spy thriller...like The Debt.
The Debt is serious, can be graphic time to time and is definitely dark. But all those pieces are necessary in order to create that thrilling spy atmosphere from Cold War period - hunt or be hunted. In addition to this great thrilling atmosphere The Debt provides to audiences, the film also shows emotional sides of each character. The film portrays spies' lonely, desperate, sad life overseas so well that it adds another layer of seriousness to the core storyline.
Although the movie switches back and forth between now and 1960s, I would say that the movie is really consist of two main parts. One is lead by Helen Mirren and the others - what the retired spies are doing now, and the other part is lead by Jessica Chastain and the others - young spies on their mission in East Berlin. That being said, if I have to name one negative thing from this movie, then that will be casting. Because of this nature of the film (time-shifting, kind of like TV show, LOST), you see young Rachel and old Rachel back and forth....eventually you end up comparing those two. And the thing is, both of actresses give fantastic acting in this film but....they don't quite match well together. What I mean by that is, is Helen Mirren really a good choice (so as the other characters) for aged Rachel (portrayed by Chastain)? I am not sure. Putting their acting performance aside, if we focus visually more, then I would say...they could have come up with better casting for each character, either young version or old version of each.
Other than that, The Debt is a rare spy thriller you get to watch, especially now days. It is smart, well written and is powered by great acting. If you are looking for a serious movie to watch and want to be satisfied, The Debt will be a great pick!
Overall grade: B+