Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Debt (DVD Review)

DVD review of espionage film The Debt starring Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson


Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal Line © 2011 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved.

Dir: John Madden (Killshot, Proof (2005), Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Shakespeare in Love)
Cast: Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds, Jesper Christensen
USA, 2011

Reason to see: Amazing cast.

Following a trio of Mossad agents, The Debt depicts the story of brave young team who go up against a notorious medically experimenting doctor (portrayed wonderfully by Jesper Christensen) during the 1960’s in East Berlin. Using an approach of then-and-now showing cause-and-effect, we see this trio in two time periods. The young guns are the charismatic and ambitious Stephan (Marton Csokas of Romulus, My Father), the shy and justice-oriented David (Sam Worthington of Last Night, Terminator: Salvation) and adept and driven Sarah (Jessica Chastain of The Tree of Life, The Help). I thought as a group, the young trio worked really well together displaying a great sense of distance for people newly working together as a group with the complex dynamics that can arise, as well as the closeness that comes with working in very tense situations. I was particularly impressed with Marton Csokas as the almost smarmy Stephan as well as with the Jessica Chastain for her acting as well as strong, believable physicality. The characters later in the timeline are portrayed as Sarah by Helen Mirren, Stephan by Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom, Michael Clayton) and David by Ciarán Hinds (The Eclipse), and I thought the transition and intensity of Jessica Chastain to Helen Mirren (The Last Station, RED) was fantastic, by am mystified in the choice of male roles almost purely because Marton Csokas and Ciarán Hinds look so much like each other I found it strange that they weren't playing the same character. In terms of acting though, everyone was great and tonally it's a fit but in terms of sheer likeness, I would have matched up Marton Csokas to Ciarán Hinds as David.

Espionage and mystery films tend to always get one over on me, I have a hard time seeing through deception especially if there are multiple layers of lies and/or time periods/and or issue, which may be one of the reasons that I really enjoyed The Debt, because I understood it but always was suprized along the way. It was the perfect intrigue, human drama and worldly issues to make it interesting, accessible and relevant on several levels.

I connected to the human drama elements of the stories the most, the pain of secrecy and the weight of living and knowing stories you want to tell or even more so the difference in people who want to tell versus having no issue keeping the secret. When and to whom do your loyalties and interests lie? Are you driven by your own need to share over the inferred or actual 'good of the people'. Is it in fact, better to know the truth? Very interesting questions to explore and with the fact the film is portrayed in the present as well as the past, we get the added weight of the effects of time. Overall I was quite impressed and I think it's a great combination of espionage & human drama.

DVD Extras:
Feature Commentary with director John Madden and producer Kris Thykier; A Look Inside The Debt, Every Secret Has A Price: Helen Mirren in The Debt and The Berlin Affair: The Triangle at the Centre of The Debt.

The Debt is available on DVD as of December 6, 2011. Check it out over at &

Shannon's Overall View:
I enjoyed it
I'll watch it again
I'd strongly and widely recommend it

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

Sam Worthington (left) and Jessica Chastain (right) star in John Madden's espionage thriller THE DEBT, an Alliance Films' release. Photo credit Laurie Sparham

Jessica Chastain (left), Marton Csokas (middle), and Sam Worthington (right) star in THE DEBT, an Alliance Films release. Photo credit Laurie Sparham

Ciaran Hinds (left) and Helen Mirren (right) star in THE DEBT, an Alliance Films release. Photo credit Laurie Sparham

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