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Debt, The

5/10

Stars: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Ciar√°n Hinds, Jesper Christensen

Director: John Madden

A vaguely confusing and long drawn-out thriller centring on the efforts of three Israeli agents in 1966 to locate and capture a war criminal known as the Butcher of Birkenau.

Naturally, one of them, Rachel, (Chastain) is a woman, and naturally the men (Csokas, Worthington) both fall for her.

Although the agents are a shade too amateurish to be completely believable as Mossad operatives, they do capture and truss up the Butcher (Christensen) in East Berlin, by which time Chastain is pregnant by Csokas to the discomfort of Worthington. For some reason, they have to wait for assistance from outside, but in the meantime The Butcher attempts to escape, scarring the girl facially before being shot by her. Or so it seems.

Intercut with all this are events set in 1997, as Rachel (now Mirren) attends the launch of a book by her daughter (Romi Aboulafia) about the exploits of '66. The suicide of one of her colleagues, and a startling discovery, take Rachel dangerously back to the past.

The fractured nature of the narrative isn't helped by uncomfortable casting: Wilkinson as the older Csokas, looks more like Huntington, while Hinds as Huntington looks more like Csokas. The acting though is OK, and the film isn't actually all that bad with some passable thrills, even if the suspense is somewhat dissipated by the exposure of what we think we've seen earlier. Tightly-shot locations in Budapest serve well enough for East Berlin.

David Quinlan

UK/Israel/Hungary 2010. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
113 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 24 Sep 2011