This Week At The Movies: The Debt


There is a certain joy that comes with an intelligent thriller. It’s nice to see a blend of action with a story that only serves to string a series of explosions together but does little to hold the audience’s atten­tion. It makes for a rewarding and engaging viewing experience. However, it doesn’t make for a perfect time at the movies. Even if it does have a little more than just action, the film can still suffer from some flaws that leave the viewer feeling like they’re missing something. The Debt, directed by John Madden, with the adaptation written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, is exactly that kind of movie. The Debt has substance and action, but a convoluted love story and a hollow ending prevent it from being a truly excellent movie.

The movie starts with a reception for a new book describing three heroic Moussad agents and their mission to capture The Surgeon of Birkenau, a Nazi scientist who performed brutal experiments on Jews in the concentration camps. They killed him as he tried to escape. One of the members, Rachel Singer, is less than flattered by the presentation; she wears her disapproval right on her face. It immediately alerts the audience that something isn’t exactly right about the whole situation. Added with the suicide of an­other member and some allusions to some backroom political deals, it becomes apparent that the story is a lie. The movie retells the story of the three members’ efforts to bring a butcher to justice as they infiltrate East Germany in 1966. They grow close as they stalk the killer, but through a series of unfortunate ac­cidents, he manages to escape, never to be seen again, or at least until some rumors begin to stir in the present. Overall, the plot is extremely tight and has terrific pacing. That is, until the end, where the movie really stumbles; this is especially true of the film’s climax. It’s not that the twist in the end is terrible, but it feels like some things were left unresolved. There is also a weird love triangle that exists between the three agents. It never entirely makes sense where their attraction originates from or why it’s so complicated. It’s disappointing because the characters are individually well-developed, but their relationship never seems to hold that same complexity.

What stands out is the score for the movie. It’s loud but never oppressive and really helps to drive the movie along and add to the overall pacing in general. The set itself is also gorgeous to look at: the sunny shores of Tel Aviv in the present contrast nicely with the bleak color palette of Soviet East Germany. It helps create a sense of time and place that can sometimes be less than clear.

Overall, The Debt is a pretty good movie. It’s quick, enjoyable and doesn’t leave the viewer in the dark too much. It’s well constructed and engaging, but just misses the mark from being something truly excellent. If thrillers are your sort of thing or you just want a nice distraction, this is a must see.

Contact Will Hazzard at [email protected].