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Still Paying off ‘The Debt’

September 9, 2011

Last night I attended a pre-release screening of The Debt, the new movie starring a host of famous faces, including Tom Wilkinson (still in purgatory for his turn as Joe Kennedy in my book), Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Ciaran Hinds.

Based upon a small, never before heard of Israeli film, the debt tells the tale of three Mossad agents ordered into east berlin to snatch (dare i say ‘render’?) a former nazis back to justice in sunny Tel Aviv. Needless to say all does not go to plan, or it would have been a far shorter, though perhaps more satisfying film.

It’s not a sentiment that will gain much traction at cocktail parties, but if there is a message to take away from The Debt, it is surely this: if you have a crazed nazis doctor under lock and key, don’t bother with legal niceties. You may not live to regret it.

I had been expecting an improved version of Munich, and certainly the signs were good; great cast and director and from Miramax. Hang on, you are no doubt thinking, Miramax went the way of the dodo years ago.  Exactly. Welcome to the last gasp from a dead studio. It is a rule of thumb that films that sit in cans for years should probably stay there.

A film with great potential has some serious flaws at its dark heart. A major flaw in this case is that the fine cast are playing the wrong characters. Ciaran Hinds’ younger self is a buttoned down square, whilst Tom Wilkinson’s younger self is something of a swinger. Yep, right actors in the wrong roles. Think Harrison Ford playing Luke Skywalker. Exactly.

The producer (who introduced the screening) was at pains to note how director John Madden had insisted on filming in Israel. Well it could be Israel, or anywhere else with a beach. There was little else of this fascinating country on the screen.

The production had a ‘made for tv’ feel to it and this contributed to a rather underwhelming reaction.

As a friend of mine noted, the film is a treatise on the failure of the liberal mentality. Quite right as usual Tim.

This is ultimately a film about secrets. It supposes that three secret agents can’t cope with the guilt over keeping sect the details of a botched mission. The flaw is perhaps in sipping that theses are normal people asked to keep stum. Not top Mossad agents. Not sure how much you know about the Mossad but I wouldn’t mess. The film turns into one complicated love triangle (how original) when it would have been far mire interesting if it had focused on the moral implications of rendering justice.

The film’s climax ultimately feels like a tacked on ending as the grandmother secret agent heads off to do what the two men cannot, namely face down their nemesis is a Ukrainian asylum. I wonder if Helen Mirren realised she had already played this role in RED?

So, points for effort, and hugs and kisses from the lovies for reminding us that lying is bad, but killing ageing Nazis in cold blood is worse, but if push comes to shove, I’ll call the real Mossad, not the Hollywood variation, if I really want a job doing properly!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 10, 2011 3:54 am

    I didn’t like it as much you did and I thought Sam Worthington struggled to play what was probably a well written character on the page…but it keep me pretty glued to the screen and had me interested for the time being. Good Review

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