The Debt (2010)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Debt</strong> (2010)

(In theaters, September 2011) Fall is the season of the serious thriller, and it’s hard to get more serious than the drama-heavy The Debt, an English-language remake of an Israeli film that looks at the price of vengeance.  Here, the story hops between 1960s Berlin and the 1990s as three characters, then and now, deal with a botched mission in trying to bring back a war criminal to justice.  It doesn’t take a long time to figure out that the story of the 1960s as told by the 90s characters has a few serious gaps; it takes longer to understand that its conclusion is a lie and that the consequences of that lie are still very much in play thirty years later.  Directed without much levity, The Debt is good for a few suspense sequences, a look at a fallible Mossad and a structure that plays out over thirty years.  Helen Mirren makes for a capable senior secret agent, whereas Jessica Chastain ably plays her, thirty years earlier.  Otherwise, the film is unobjectionable: Solidly directed, competently acted and professionally executed, it’s a serious thriller that works better than most other suspense movies in theater.  Sadly, it doesn’t quite shine –for all of its potential in setting a story across two time periods, it sometimes feel as if The Debt is timid in bringing all of its threads together, or playing off the ironic possibilities of its bifurcated structure.  It’s not much of a criticism, but then again it’s hard to express exactly what’s missing when one feels that something is missing.  It may be better to rejoice in the return of the serious thriller after an empty summer.

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