Film Review: The Debt

The Debt is an accomplished thriller that audiences should find absorbing. The various aspects combine together effectively to produce an atmospheric film that retains a sense of plausibility.

In 1997, the daughter of two former Mossad agents publishes a book detailing their accomplishments. Rachel and Stefan, along with fellow agent David, undertook a mission to track down a Nazi war criminal in 1966. The team accomplished their mission with a few obstacles, but not everything is quite as it seems on the pages of their daughter’s book…

The one dominant factor that makes The Debt work so well is its excellent screenplay. The Debt, a remake of a 1997 Israeli film, was written by Matthew Vaughan, Jane Goodman and Peter Straughan. The characters are highly believable, as is the dialogue. The film plunges viewers into a world that will be foreign to the vast majority. Yet, the events that occur seem authentic given the context.

The format of the film allows tension to build in a naturalistic manner. This begins quite slowly, but exceeds to a very tense finale. It is the tension and mystery that grips viewers the most. For the most part, The Debt remains plausible. It is this facet that distinguishes the film from so many other recent thrillers that are let down by incredulous plot twists.

The Debt has a particular visual style that imbues the entire film. The colours are muted, and the film seems to be saturated by a blue tone. This is particularly pertinent in the scenes set in the apartment. The visual style of the film helps to enhance the sense of claustrophobia. Director John Madden, along with cinematographer Ben Davis and art directors Peter Francis and Dominic Masters, have done an excellent job in making these scenes appear cramped, closed and tense.

Performances in The Debt are good all round. Helen Mirren brings gravitas to the role of Rachel. Playing the younger Rachel, Jessica Chastain shows why she has been much in demand this year. Sam Worthington is controlled as the younger David, while Marton Csokas brings more personality as the young Stephan.

The Debt may cause restlessness in audiences more acclimatised to breakneck pacing and constant action. Nonetheless, it is a solid thriller that should satisfy fans of the genre.