Saturday, September 3, 2011
There are some things movies do well and some things they don't. Movies are excellent at telling stories, building suspense and creating moods. Movies are terrible at explaining intellectual ideas. Thus, some material is well-suited to cinematic treatment and "The Debt" is perfect for it. In fact, this story was told before, four years ago in an Israeli film.
The movie is a thriller. It is heart-poundingly exciting and, unusual for the genre, it explores its characters deeply. You see three people (played by six actors) experiencing life-changing crises and making consequential moral choices. There is a depth to the movie that will surprise you. Along with plot-twists you don't see coming.
The film has a female point-of-view, which always appeals to me. You see it from the perspective of Rachel, a secret agent who is part of a team trying to kidnap a Nazi war-criminal in East Berlin in 1966 so they can return him to Israel for trial. The movie flips back and forth between that time and 1997, thirty years later, when the three agents are played by different actors.
The movie stars Jessica Chastain as Rachel when she's young and Helen Mirren as Rachel in her later years. Chastain has been annointed by Hollywood as our next big movie-star. You may not have seen her but you'll know her soon. She starred with Brad Pitt in Terrence Malick's latest film, "The Tree Of Life" and also had a role in "The Help." For the next two decades, Chastain will get plum roles to exhibit her considerable acting skill.
The movie is expertly directed by the guy who did "Shakespeare In Love." The plotting and editing tell the story with persuasion and thrills.
"The Debt" is an artistic success which makes it worth seeing.