I go to movies all the time while in release, one to two a week. Seeing Jessica Chastain in both The Help, and Tree of Life, made me decide to see The Debt.
Director John Madden directed Shakespeare in Love which won 7 Academy Awards including, Best Actress for Gwyneth Paltrow, and Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench. He also directed Prime Suspect 3 starring both Helen Mirren and Ciaran Hinds, who both star in The Debt; and Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
The Debt parallels real events. Mossad agents abducted Eichmann in Argentina in 1961, tried him in Israel, and executed him. The notorious Dr Mengele, the butcher of Auschwitz fled to South America, narrowly escaping the Mossad in Argentina, fleeing to Paraguay, and then Brazil. Birkenau is known also as Auschwitz Birkenau. Twenty four surgeons experimented on human captives, often performing unnecessary surgical operations without anaesthetic.
In 1965, a rookie Mossad agent played by Jessica Chastain, crosses Checkpoint Charlie and joins two male agents in East Berlin, to identify and kidnap the notorious surgeon of Birkenau, now a gynaecologist. She must pose as a patient, and subject herself to the cold probings of her intimate place by the butcher, and take close up photos without arousing suspicion.
Photographs of his terrible deeds haunt her and fill her with apprehension and fear. Photographs of smiling babies adorn his waiting room wall. A man who once took life from the world, now charged with bringing life into the world.
Her legs in stirrups, vulnerable, afraid, he probes her intimate space with his instrument, as he asks probing questions, about her unfamiliar accent, about her mother, about how she found him. It's tense and gripping. He gives her sex advice, and injections which will help her become pregnant. Meanwhile her desire grows for the sensitive agent, but David though attracted is closed off, and a romantic triangle develops. Will the doctors advice pay off?
When the mission goes wrong, the three agents and their captive remain in the same house. He would rather escape than die, and rather die than face trial. He senses the weakness in the relationships of his captors, and in their psyches, and pushes them to their psychological limits. He says things you would not expect to hear in a movie. As tensions mount, the great psychodramatic moments of the movie unfold. It's strangely intimate. He pushes the mother button with Rachel, while she shaves him with a cutthroat razor, and tears stream down her porcelain cheeks. She goes to the bathroom to throw up. When David, the sensitive one replies to him, 'you are a monster,' you can see from his facial expression that he is getting off on it. He plays them off each other. She is with him but it's you she wants. He seems able to read her mind, to guess her real name, intuit her condition. Here the acting is simply amazing and totally absorbing.
The doctor succeeds in his goal. They return to Israel, with an invented truth, and a heavy secret. Thirty years later that secret will force Rachel out of retirement, so the real truth can remain unknown.
The Debt is part suspense, part thriller, part psychodrama, its parts stirred by three great acting performances.
Jessica Chastain as the lead is incredible, with a face crafted by the cinematic gods, one of the best new talents I have seen. I was totally wowed by her performance.
Jesper Christensen delivers an astounding performance as the doctor, perhaps I am supposed to feel shock and outrage, yet I found it gripping and strangely delicious to watch the psychological cat and mouse game between him and her.
Helen Mirren, shows a harder edge as the older Rachel, always a gripping presence.
I love movies with a heroic female protagonist. When plans go awry, she steps out of the shadows looking for a light, she ventures into the stirrups, and she fights. She feels the fear and does it anyway. She is an everywoman required to do dangerous things. Other movies with great female protagonists would be Black Book, and The Girl Who Played With Firemovies. I wish Hollywood would make make more movies like these. All these are European movies.
If you're like me and like psycho dramatic thrillers. I think you will love it, and I hope this was helpful.