The Debt (2010 film)

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The Debt
The Debt Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Madden
Produced by Matthew Vaughn
Kris Thykier
Screenplay by Matthew Vaughn
Jane Goldman
Peter Straughan
Based on the Israeli 2007 film Ha-Hov
written by Assaf Bernstein
& Ido Rosenblum
Starring Helen Mirren
Sam Worthington
Jessica Chastain
Jesper Christensen
Marton Csokas
Ciarán Hinds
Tom Wilkinson
Music by Thomas Newman
Cinematography Ben Davis
Edited by Alexander Berner
Production
  company
Marv Films
Miramax Films (main financier)
Distributed by UPI [1] (UK)
Focus Features (USA)
Release date(s)
  • 4 September 2010 (2010-09-04) (Deauville)
  • 15 June 2011 (2011-06-15) (France)
  • 31 August 2011 (2011-08-31) (USA)
  • 30 September 2011 (2011-09-30) (UK)
Running time 113 minutes[2]
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English, German, Russian
Budget $20 million[3]
Box office $45,636,368 worldwide[3]

The Debt is a 2010 British-American remake of the 2007 Israeli drama-thriller film Ha-Hov,[4] directed by John Madden from a screenplay by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan. It stars Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas and Jesper Christensen.

Although ready for release already in July 2010,[2] and scheduled for a December 2010 release in the United States,[5] the film only toured various film festivals during the autumn of 2010 and spring of 2011. It didn't see a general release until it was released in France on 15 June 2011, followed by Kazakhstan and Russia in July 2011, and United States, Canada and India on 31 August 2011.[6]

Plot[edit]

In 1965, Mossad agent Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain) arrives in East Berlin to meet with fellow agents David Peretz (Sam Worthington) and Stefan Gold (Marton Csokas). Their mission is to capture Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen)—infamously known as "The Surgeon of Birkenau" for his medical experiments on Jews during World War II—and bring him to Israel to face justice.

Rachel and David present themselves as an ethnic German married couple from Argentina and Rachel plants herself as a patient at Vogel's obstetrics and gynaecology clinic.

Both Stefan and David develop an attraction to Rachel. Rachel shows a preference for David, yet sleeps with Stefan shortly after David rebukes her advances. This tryst leads to Rachel becoming pregnant. Stefan also reveals to Rachel that David lost his entire family in The Holocaust.

At her third appointment, Rachel injects Vogel with a sedative during an examination and induces the nurse (Vogel's wife) to believe Vogel suffered a heart attack. Stefan and David arrive dressed as paramedics and make off with the unconscious Vogel in a faux ambulance, barely ahead of the real ambulance team. Under cover of night, the trio attempt their exfiltration at Wollankstrasse Station, on a rail line along the sector boundary between East and West Berlin, and next to a mail depot. As they prepare to load Vogel onto the stopped train he suddenly awakens and sounds the horn of the stolen mail van where he was being held, alerting East German guards to their presence. In the ensuing shootout, David sacrifices his chance to escape in order to collect a compromised Rachel. The agents are left with no choice but to bring Vogel to their apartment and plan a new extraction.

The agents take turns monitoring and feeding Vogel, who attempts to psychologically humiliate and intimidate them. During his shift, David becomes violently enraged after Vogel explains his beliefs that Jews had many weaknesses like selfishness, making them easily subdued. David smashes a glass plate over Vogel's head and repeatedly beats him, only to be stopped and restrained by Stefan. While Rachel is in charge of monitoring, Vogel manages to cut through his binds using a shard of the broken plate and ambushes Rachel with the shard, leaving her with a permanent scar on her face. He then escapes into the night as the agents are left to assess their failure.

Panicked and hoping to save face for both himself and for Israel, Stefan convinces Rachel and David to go along with the fiction that Vogel was killed. They agree to lie and use the cover story that Rachel shot and killed Vogel as he attempted to flee.

In the following years, the agents become venerated as national heroes for their roles in the mission. During a party in 1970, at the home of Rachel and Stefan (now married), Rachel confesses to David her distaste with her current life; Stefan puts his career and social status ahead of her while also punishing her for not loving him and having feelings for David. David admits his intention to leave Mossad and the country, imploring Rachel to come with him. Rachel cannot bring herself to abandon her daughter (the result of Rachel and Stefan's time together in hiding in East Germany) and she and David part ways.

In 1997, Rachel (Helen Mirren) is honored by her daughter Sarah (Romi Aboulafia) during a release party in Tel Aviv for Sarah's book based on the account Rachel, Stefan and David gave of the events in 1965. Concurrently, David (Ciarán Hinds) is escorted from his apartment by an Israeli government agent for a debriefing. David recognizes Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) waiting in another vehicle and commits suicide by stepping in front of an oncoming truck.

At a dinner after their daughter's book release party, Stefan takes Rachel aside to set a meeting to discuss new information Stefan has obtained. Later, at David's apartment, Stefan provides evidence that Vogel now resides at an insane asylum in Ukraine, and is soon scheduled to be interviewed by a local journalist.

David had been investigating the man at Stefan's request and, according to Stefan, killed himself out of fear that the lie would be exposed. Rachel refutes Stefan's explanation, recalling an encounter with David a day before his suicide, in which he revealed his shame about the lie and disclosed that he had spent years unsuccessfully searching the world for Vogel. He was further disheartened by Rachel’s admission that she would continue propagating the lie to protect those closest to her, particularly her daughter.

Nevertheless, Rachel finally feels compelled to travel to Kiev, where she investigates the journalist's lead and identifies the asylum. She reaches the room just minutes before the journalist and discovers the man claiming to be Vogel is an impostor, a senile old man who apparently fancies the notoriety. Describing the encounter to Stefan over the phone, Rachel declares she will not continue to lie about the 1965 mission. She leaves a note for the journalist and prepares to leave, but suddenly spots Vogel (in his 80s by now) among the other patients and follows him to an isolated area of the hospital.

After a confrontation in which Vogel stabs her twice with scissors, Rachel kills Vogel by plunging a poisoned syringe into his back. As she limps from the asylum, Rachel's note is discovered and read by the journalist. It describes the truth of the mission, ready to be relayed to the world.

Main cast[edit]

Production[edit]

Israeli papers reported that Mirren was "immersing herself" in studies of the Hebrew language, Jewish history, and Holocaust writings, including the life of Simon Wiesenthal, while spending time in Israel in 2009 to film scenes in the movie.[7] "My character is carrying the memory, anger and passion of the Holocaust," she said.[8]

Release[edit]

The film premiered at the Deauville American Film Festival in France on 4 September 2010,[6] followed by 2010 Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2010,[9][10] and various other festivals during the autumn of 2010 and spring of 2011.[6]

The film was ready to be released already in early July 2010, when it was submitted to the British Board of Film Classification, [2] and Miramax had originally announced plans to release it in the United States on December 29, 2010, and it quickly began to appear on lists of possible 2011 Oscar contenders.[11][12] However, the film was one of two that had their official opening dates delayed until 2011 because of the transfer of Miramax from its previous owner Disney and the new owner Filmyard.[13]

The film saw its first general release in France on 15 June 2011, followed by Kazakhstan and Russia in July 2011, and United States, Canada and India on 31 August 2011.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

The film has received generally positive response among critics and viewers. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 76 % of the 158 critics gave the film a positive review, with an average critical score of 6.5/10. The site's consensus states, "Its time-shifting narrative creates distracting casting problems, but ultimately, The Debt is a smart, well-acted entry in a genre that could use more like it."[14] Metacritic, a review aggregator which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 65 based on 37 reviews.[15] Victoria Alexander of Films in Review said of the film, "The twists are shocking and mesmerizing. A high wire, intelligent espionage thriller. It is one of the best movies of 2011."[16]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 12 stars out of four. He said, "Maybe the problem is a structure that cuts around in time. Three characters, six actors, and although the woman is always presumably Rachel, I was sometimes asking myself which of the two men I was seeing when younger. In a thriller, you must be sure. I suspect this movie would have been more effective if it had remained entirely in the past, especially given all we know."[17]

Differences from the original film[edit]

The 2010 film is based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name (known asHa-Hov or HaChov in Hebrew). Differences between the Israeli film and the remake include:

  • The main female character, Rachel Berner, was renamed from Rachel Singer; her fellow agents, Ehud and Zvi, were renamed David and Stefan; and the Nazi war criminal Max Rainer was renamed Dieter Vogel.
  • The love triangle between Rachel and the other two agents is given much greater focus in the remake.
  • In the remake, Rachel married and later divorced Stefan, while in the original Rachel had no special relationship with either man after the operation occurred.
  • In the original film, Rachel herself wrote the book about the group's exploits, whose release party is seen at the beginning of the film, while in the remake it was written by her and Stefan's daughter.
  • The remake has an extended scene, not in the original, where an attempt to transport the abducted Vogel out of East Berlin is botched.
  • In the original film, Rachel travels with Ehud to Ukraine, but must complete the mission alone after he suffers from cowardice; in the remake, Rachel goes to Ukraine by herself because David (Ehud) has killed himself.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]