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10th October 2011

Review: ‘The Debt’

Hide and Seek

John Madden’s outstanding espionage thriller is a triumph. Three young Mossad agents travel to 1960’s Berlin in an attempt to capture war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), “The Surgeon of Birkenau”, and bring him to trial in Israel. This juxtaposes with their story thirty years later, when a dangerous secret from their past threatens to surface. The pace of the film is thrilling, building the intensity with every clever scene.

Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas portray the operatives. As we follow them though their ordeal in Germany, their devotion to this mission becomes increasingly clear, as do the strains that it puts on them and their relationships. The story demands exceptional performances from these young actors, and I assure you that you won’t be disappointed. Chastain’s portrayal of a young Rachel as a woman whose strength outdoes her years, but whose character is laced with emotional vulnerability, is flawless. Csokas and Worthington play Stephan and David respectively, and deliver strong performances as the male leads. Helen Mirren, who plays Rachel thirty years on, achieves impressive symmetry with Chastain’s character, maintaining the theme of emotional instability. Another standout performance comes from Jesper Christensen who depicts war criminal Dieter Vogel. He conveys a sense of pure, calm, sinister evil that sends shivers up and down the spine throughout.

Artistic camerawork coupled with a chilling soundtrack work to create a dark yet inviting atmosphere. The audience is drawn into a world that flits between bleak Berlin and modern Israel, also visiting Ukraine at one point, a world that is not easy to take yourself away from. The intensity of the film is palpable, one identifies with the characters and their situation. We, like them, become immersed in the mission and its outcome.

I cannot recommend this film enough, it is a veritable must-see. Films such as this do not come around very often, and if you get the chance to get away from your busy student schedule for a couple of hours, seeing this in the cinema would be a worthy investment. Finally, at the end of this shower of praise, one question remains… Oscar?

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