FlixChatter Review: The Debt

It’s nice to see a film you’ve been anticipating actually meets your expectation. I’ve been waiting to see The Debt for quite a while, and when Miramax studio was shut down by Disney last January 2010, I feared that this movie would’ve gone straight to DVD. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, so as soon as the film was released here, I went to see it on opening night.

I love the fact that they put Dame Helen Mirren front and center on the poster, that definitely appealed to me because she is an actor I admire and also because I always love to see a strong female protagonist on film.

The story takes place in flashback mode in the year 1965, when three young Israeli Mossad agents were sent on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Thirty years later, a man claiming to be the very same Nazi surgeon Dieter Vogel has surfaced in the Ukraine and the former agents must figure out what to do with such revelation that threatens their current reputation.

Moviegoers have seen a fair share of Nazi thrillers to date, but I’d say The Debt has got something different to offer and British director John Madden’s direction keeps the suspense going right up until the end. Even the more mellow moments when they’re holding the criminal captive, the tension doesn’t let up. The look of the movie is gritty and realistic, and the younger actors capture that sense of dread and anxiety convincingly.

It’s especially interesting to see three pairs of actors playing the older and younger versions of the same character: David Peretz (Ciarán Hinds/Sam Worthington), Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson/Marton Csokas) and Rachel Singer (Mirren/Chastain). Despite Worthington not resembling Hinds at all, it didn’t really matter in the end as the actors did a good job keeping the integrity of the characters.

Apart from Mirren, the younger actors had more to do in this film as they carry out their mission. The retro scenes were full of edge-of-your-seat moments, especially the scenes in the hospital. I’m not undermining what the two male agents did, but really, Rachel no doubt has the most difficult assignment out of the three, pretending to be a patient of the guy they’re trying to capture who’s working as an gynecologist (’nuff said). Danish actor Jesper Christensen as the sinister Vogel is evil through and through, right up there with Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List.

There is a bit of an unrequited love story interwoven into the espionage plot, but it actually serves the story, so it isn’t just there for the sake of softening things up. I really feel for the characters and I’m glad to say that Worthington is actually more expressive than I’ve seen him in previous films. The rest of the cast are excellent all around, especially Mirren in the last 20 minutes or so. The last scene was brilliantly filmed as Madden kept us guessing for what about to unfold. Let’s just say the film ended with bang that made me jump out of my seat. As I’ve mentioned here, this is the first time I saw Jessica Chastain on screen and I must say I’m quite impressed with her. I look forward to seeing her other movies, which are quite a few in this year alone: The Help, Tree of Life and the upcoming Shakespeare adaptation Coriolanus.

I highly recommend this film for anyone, even those who normally isn’t into Nazi thrillers like this. The violence are unflinching at times but not overly gory. The story itself is intriguing and the dialog is sharp and intelligent, which is no surprise considering it was written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (Kick Ass, X-Men: First Class). I don’t even mind renting this one again when it’s out on DVD. It’s not every day I come across a solid espionage thriller that’s as taut and well-acted as this one.

4 out of 5 reels

Have you seen this film? I’d love to hear what you think.

Poster of the Week: The Debt … and the latest trailer

This upcoming thriller is one of my anticipated movies coming out in August. It stars one of my favorite seasoned actors, that is Dame Helen Mirren. So I’m thrilled that they feature her face in the poster instead of some of the younger cast.

As I’ve mentioned in my post above, The Debt is an action thriller set twenty years after the end of WWII. Three Mossad agents learn that a Nazi war criminal is still alive and set out to pursue him across Europe. A newer trailer has also been released since I posted this one last year  (wow clearly I’ve been waiting for this movie for quite a while!). I like the flashback storytelling style, though the tricky part is obviously finding the younger counterparts of the actors already chosen for the more mature ones, or the other way around depending who’s cast first. In this case, obviously Sam Worthington as the younger version of Ciarán Hinds’ character is the most jarring IMO, I mean they look nothing alike even when you see pics of Mr. Hinds twenty years ago! 😀 Ah well, it happens all the time in movies I suppose, and there are worse cases so I’m not gonna hold it against them too much here.


The cast is very promising, obviously Mirren is the biggest draw for me, but I also like Tom Wilkinson and Hinds a lot. All of the three younger actors look good, too. Jessica Chastain is one of the new ‘it’ girl apparently, she’s starring in the Terrence Malick’s upcoming Tree of Life, as well as Coriolanus, another of of my anticipated movies that’ll hopefully come out this year. I’ve been sort of on and off about Worthington. I like the guy in Avatar and even in Terminator Salvation, but he was disappointing in Clash of the Titans with his one-note performance. But I haven’t given up on him yet. I read this interview yesterday with a title saying that he’s more than an action star, well I sure hope so. I think he’s got charisma, so I hope he’ll do well here.

What do you think of the poster and/or trailer, folks? Are you interested in seeing this movie?

Conspicuous Trailer of the Week: The Debt

Seems like every trailer I’ve posted has Helen Mirren in it, the dame is one versatile actress! But this movie’s actually been on my radar for a while, but then the whole Disney vs. Miramax debacle threatened to send this straight to dvd. So I was tickled pink when I saw the trailer and the release date listed on IMDb is August 11 (US release). The trailer looks pretty intense, and so is the plot:

In 1965, three young Israeli Mossad agents on a secret mission capture and kill a notorious Nazi war criminal. Now, thirty years later, a man claiming to be the Nazi has surfaced in the Ukraine and one of the former agents must go back undercover to seek out the truth. (IMDb plot summary)

This has a Munich vibe to it, the Steven Spielberg movie about the aftermath of what’s called Black September of 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were murdered at the Munich Olympics. Well, that one starred one of my fave actors from Down Under Eric Bana, and now we’ve got another Aussie Sam Worthington in the lead. We’ll see if he can hold his own against thespians like Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds. As I said in my post yesterday, I’d love to see more of his dramatic side. Getthebigpicture.net thinks this is more of a Helen Mirren vehicle though, she plays Rachel Singer, an ex-Mossad agent in charge of tracking down the Nazi war criminal known as The Surgeon of Birkenau, whom everyone thought was dead but suddenly turned up in Ukraine. Jesper Christensen (Mr. White in Casino Royale) plays the hunted criminal, Jessica Chastain (who’s been doing mostly TV work) plays Mirren’s character’s younger self, while the older character of Worthington is played by Hinds. Huh? I don’t see any resemblance at all between these two, but whatever.

The movie is directed by John Madden (Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown; Shakespeare in Love), with Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn (who penned the script for Kick-Ass) as two of the team of writers. I wonder how complex is the story that it needs five writers? Well at least the trailer keeps it under wraps enough and didn’t reveal way too much.

What do you think folks, would you see this one?

Random assortment of movie musings and news – July Edition

Ok, about 72+ hours after I wrote my Inception review and my mind’s finally able to think about something else! A bunch of us obviously went and saw it this weekend as the blogs are all abuzz with Inception-related posts, and it’s been a trending topic on Twitter for at least four straight days! Christopher Nolan’s gutsy mind-bending thriller seems to have paid off, it’s made over $70 million in the last five days domestically. Though it pales in comparison to The Dark Knight‘s opening take of $158 million, but it’s still impressive considering it’s an original story and it didn’t have the boost from Heath Ledger’s sudden passing.

Anyways, here are just some random stuff I noticed this past week:

  • Apparently teen heartthrob Zac Efron was at the Mall of America a couple of nights ago. The local radio tipped me off and I got a chuckle out of the reporter who was covering the event as she had to bring several earplugs! He’s promoting his new tearjerker drama Charlie St. Cloud. Man, I’m glad I wasn’t there that day (my office is relatively close to it so sometimes I stopped by after work), I mean check out this massive crowd! The reporter said there could easily be 10,000 people there. That’s just mind-boggling to me, ok so we MN folks don’t get to see Hollywood celebs very often but still! Anyhoo, I personally think the dude is practically a living breathing personification of a Ken doll, but I’m obviously not his target market. To be fair though, Zac just might be a decent actor (he earned some raves in Me & Orson Wells a couple of years back), though he probably ain’t going to shed his matinee idol image with his new flick. And apparently the marketing department was too busy framing Zac’s face just so in the poster they didn’t bother thinking about the slogan. LIFE IS FOR LIVING? Seriously, why bother!
  • On a related note, according to FirstShowing, Efron reportedly wished he had been cast in Zack Snyder’s upcoming fantasy thriller Sucker Punch. Not sure if the reason is because his main squeeze Vanessa Hudgens is in it, or he just likes Snyder’s work. With a tagline “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns,” it’s bound to appeal to most Comic-Con attendees, and even more so after they see this provocative first official photo. Snyder seems to have had a lot of luck at the San Diego convention, his last two flicks (300, Watchmen) got a big boost from it, especially the first. I thought that this is another graphic novel adaptation, but it’s actually Snyder’s own idea that was converted into a screenplay, which marks his first project that isn’t based on another person’s work. The plot per IMDb: A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility.
  • Read this one briefly on my daily IMDb fix, and I felt compelled to comment on it. It appears that Katherine Heigl is hellbent on further derailing her career. After the disastrous The Ugly Truth and the equally dismal and utterly pointless Killers, she’s now teaming up with Andy Tennant for her new movie, the guy who brought us The Bounty Hunter (hence my open letter to Gerry Butler, who’s as guilty as Heigl in having any part at all in TUT). Oh well, who cares, I won’t be seeing it anyway.
  • What I am excited for is this upcoming Israeli-themed thriller The Debt. I first heard about it last year but then I was a bit worried this might end up becoming a straight-to-dvd flick when Disney closed down Miramax. Well, this week Entertainment Weekly‘s released the first still of Sam Worthington as a Mossad agent, and we’ve got a release date of December 29, 2010. Yay! Worthington’s surrounded by an excellent cast of Helen Mirren (every flick with her in it gets my attention lately), Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas.

    The trailer’s also just been released, which I’ll post later today. I’m curious to see how Worthington’s performance pan out here. So far I haven’t been overly impressed with his acting, but then again his flicks has been more about the special effects (Avatar, Clash of the Titans) than anything else. Though he showed something promising in Terminator Salvation, I really want to see his dramatic side when he isn’t hidden under all that blue makeup and cat-like eyes. Acting is much about expression and an actor ought to have more than two or three ‘look’ to choose from. Sounds like he’s adopting an Israeli accent too, so we’ll see if he does that better than his American one 🙂
  • There were a bunch of trailers shown in front of Inception, it went on and on endlessly and the movie itself is already 2.5 hours long! Well, one of them that I liked was the Tron: Legacy trailer, which have been making a splash in Comic Con for the past couple of years. Y’know, this movie wasn’t really on my radar until my husband enthused about it, saying how much he liked the original (I never saw it) and proceeded to show me the original trailer. Well, now I’m intrigued, apparently Jeff Bridges starred in the original called Tron in 1982 and is now back for the sequel.

    From its IMDb page, the summary goes like this: Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund), the tech-savvy 27-year-old son of Kevin Flynn (Bridges), looks into his father’s disappearance and finds himself pulled into the same world of fierce programs and gladiatorial games where his father has been living for 25 years. Along with Kevin’s loyal confidant, father and son embark on a life-and-death journey across a visually-stunning cyber universe that has become far more advanced and exceedingly dangerous. I’ve never heard of Hedlund before, but apparently he’s from Roseau, Minnesota! In any case, I’m curious to see this now, and Rockerdad is going to lend me the Tron dvd so I can see how outdated it is now and how far we’ve come in CGI 🙂

Well anyways, happy Wednesday folks. Any thoughts about any of this topic, please chime in below.