Thursday, September 16, 2010


John Madden at TIFF 2010
Director John Madden has crafted a sublime film in The Debt, a remake of a 2007 Israeli film.  The film centers around three Israeli CIA Agents on a mission to capture a Nazi War Criminal and they are successful.  Or are they?  I attended a TIFF screening of the film this morning at VISA Screening Room and we were v. fortunate to have had Madden present for a Q&A.

Helen Mirren steals the show as the older Rachel in this Action Drama which grabs you from the get-go and never quite lets up with a cloud of danger hanging always present.  Rachel is a celebrated national Hero, her claim to fame being her successful killing of the said Criminal 30 years prior, as he tried to escape his capturers.

The story reverts back to the backstory behind the present, with younger Rachel (Jessica Chastain) being assigned to the mission along with two other Agents, Stefan (Marton Csokas) and David (Avatar's Sam Worthington).  The three live together in the same house where passions ignite.  After successfully capturing Vogel (Jesper Christensen), the true challenge only begins from there as his hatred towards the Jewish runs deep, knowing exactly how to strike where it hurts with his three captors.  Rachel, Stefan and David however become entangled in a passionate love triangle complicating matters further and also dissolving their bond as a team.

There is never a dull moment in The Debt and Madden knows just how to manipulate his audience so skilfully as to make things excruciatingly tense.  Christensen, who is little known outside Denmark is deliciously evil with his relentless anger.  Worthington shows a bit of diversity here as a sensitive man jaded by Rachel's choice to be with Stefan and Chastain is one to watch undoubtedly, successfully stepping up-to-the-plate in a v. physically and emotionally demanding role.  I did find it odd that Tom Wilkinson was cast as an older Stefan and Ciaran Hinds was chosen as David, when physically a reversed pairing would have been more believable.

The Debt hits theatres via Miramax on December 29, 2010 and although I don't anticipate Oscar buzz for it, it is indeed a thrilling ride.  Grade: A-

(Photo credit: Mr. Will-W.)

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