johnlink ranks THE DEBT (2010)

A remake of the 2007 Israeli film HA-HOV, this 2010 movie is in a category of being a remake of a movie less than five years old. It can be a dubious proposition to do such a thing. LET ME IN did it with some success around the same time period. Yet a movie like OLDBOY gets an English remake a decade after the original foreign film and a good portion of the audience still won’t accept it. THE DEBT’s release came with a knee jerk reaction of many automatically disregarding it in favor of the original. I’ve never seen the original, so I have no such predisposition. Here I will consider the English version of THE DEBT with absolutely no knowledge of its source.


I watched THE DEBT (2010) on 2.9.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Sometimes a movie is just solid. There is an expectation to expound grandly about the quality of acting or the nuance of story. Yet, at its core, the movie has done its job and landed the major points without being supremely memorable. THE DEBT, at its worst, is that sort of movie.

The acting is wonderful. In this fictional story, Helen Mirren plays former Mossad agent Rachel Singer. She is credited with the discovery and killing of former Nazi terror Doktor Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen) along with fellow agents Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) and David (Ciaran Hinds). The movie starts with the daughter of Stephan and Rachel having written about the mission, from 30 years previous, which resulted in the heroism.

The movie starts simply and gets more confused by going into the past. It is a wonderful device: to seemingly start with an obvious story and introduce layers by going backwards. The young version of Rachel is Jessica Chastain, the young Stephan is Marton Csokas, and young David is Sam Worthington. These three are asked to do some heavy lifting as their mission hits snags. All three are wonderful, though Worthington (not asked to do much heavy lifting in the TERMINATOR reboot or CLASH OF THE TITANS) probably impresses the most with his quiet brooding.

The story manages to surprise by cleverly disguising certain truths. This is a smartly written picture, one which tumbles down a hill of tension without stopping until the end. While the big reveal may be obvious, it is also effective.

Telling a fictional story of Mossad agents showing a level of deception has been ridiculed as anti-Semitic. Yet, in actuality, THE DEBT is a micro story, not a macro one. This is not about the bigger movement any more than it is about the horrors committed by Doktor Bernhardt. Instead, it is about the intricate relationship of three people who allow a fourth outsider to become a bigger individual influence on their lives than they ever wanted. Bernhardt may have been responsible for physical atrocities during the war, but the scars he leaves on the Mossad agents are not merely physical (though he manages that as well).

This is a wonderfully done movie which may have details that escape consciousness over time. While it may not be an all time classic, it absolutely does its job for two hours of well acted, well written, and well delivered tension.





~ by johnlink00 on February 10, 2014.

5 Responses to “johnlink ranks THE DEBT (2010)”

  1. Sounds interesting. Maybe I’ll check it out at some point.

  2. I enjoyed this film a lot. I was so impressed by the cast. And actually, until reading your review, I had no clue that it was a remake haha.

  3. Good review John. It’s pretty darn tense in many spots, which more than makes up for some of its plot’s pit-falls.

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