My wife and I watched a drama thriller film last night from director John Madden (“Killshot”, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”). Released in 2010 “The Debt” was a British / American remake of the 2007 Israeli movie “Ha-Hov” with some character and plot differences.
At the beginning of the movie we listen as, in 1997, Sarah Gold (Romi Aboulafia – “Joe + Belle”, “Shabatot VeHagim”) speaks at a presentation for her new book and describes a mission undertaken by three Mossad agents – including her mother and father – in East Berlin in 1965 that forms the basis for her book.
Large portions of the film are flashbacks to 1965. There we see Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain – “The Martian”, “A Most Violent Year”) entering East Berlin in order to meet up with her two fellow agents Stephan Gold (Marton Csokas – “The Equalizer”, “Noah”) and David Peretz (Sam Worthington – “Clash Of The Titans”, “Macbeth”).
Their mission is to kidnap a practising gynecologist, Doctor Bernhardt who they believe to actually be a Nazi war criminal named Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen – “Spectre”, “Melancholia”) – known as the Surgeon of Birkenau and take him back to Israel to face trial.
These scenes are interspersed with scenes from 1997 where we watch the scarred Rachel (Helen Mirren – “Brighton Rock”, “Excalibur”), her now ex-husband Stephan (Tom Wilkinson – “Selma”, “Unfinished Business”) and David (Ciarán Hinds – “Above Suspicion : Silent Scream”,”The Woman In Black”).
These three are the only ones who know the truth about how their mission went awry in East Berlin and try to deal with the reality that is suddenly about to make itself known thirty years down the line just as Sarah’s book celebrates the accepted version of their mission…
A thrilling film looking at the weight of the truth vs living with a lie we were very impressed with “The Debt”. As a spy thriller it feels rather more real than many others of its type. Although not based on fact, the baddie is presumably based at least in part on the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele who evaded capture and justice by hiding out in Brazil, and it must be said that Christensen makes a fabulous bad guy – just as he did in the Bond movies he appeared in.
There is a scene that plays twice during the film. Once when part of a narration from Sarah’s book and then later during the flashbacks. When it runs through the second time and suddenly there’s a deviation from what you expect to see it’s a bit of a shock but sets up the rest of the movie perfectly.