The Debt (2011 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John Madden|
|Produced by||Matthew Vaughn
|Screenplay by||Matthew Vaughn
|Based on||film Ha-Hov written by
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Editing by||Alexander Berner|
|Distributed by||Focus Features
|Running time||113 minutes|
|Language||English, German, Hebrew|
The Debt is a 2011 American/British drama-thriller film 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. It's a remake of the 2007 Israeli film Ha-Hov directed by Assaf Bernstein,
Originally scheduled for a December 2010 release, the film was released in the United States on August 31, 2011.
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.
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 truck 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, and one of the guards is killed. 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 respected 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 repeatedly 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.
- Helen Mirren as Rachel Singer (1997), a former Mossad agent
- Ciarán Hinds as David Peretz (1997), a former Mossad agent
- Tom Wilkinson as Stefan Gold (1997), a Mossad agent and Rachel's ex-husband
- Jesper Christensen as Dieter Vogel (1965, 1997)
- Romi Aboulafia as Sarah Gold, daughter of Stefan and Rachel
Production and preparation
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. "My character is carrying the memory, anger and passion of the Holocaust," she said.
The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival in September 2010. Miramax originally announced plans to release the film in the United States on December 29, 2010, and it quickly began to appear on lists of possible 2011 Oscar contenders. Before the official December 29, 2010, U.S. première, it was shown December 4, 2010, as part of the Washington Jewish Film Festival, and as early as October 17, at the Mill Valley Film Festival. However, the film was one of two films that had their official opening dates delayed until 2011 as a result of a "transaction between [Miramax owner] Disney and soon-to-be new owners, construction magnate Ron Tutor and Tom Barrack's Santa Monica-based Colony Capital (led by former Disney CFO Richard Nanula)...."
In February 2011, the announcement was made that the new release date had been scheduled for August 31, 2011.
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." 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. 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."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 1⁄2 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."
Differences from the original film
The 2010 American version is based on the 2007 Israeli film of the same name (Ha-Hov or HaChov, in Hebrew), directed by Assaf Bernstein, and co-written by Bernstein and Ido Rosenblum. It was released in Israel on November 29, 2007. Differences between the Israeli film and the American remake include:
- The main female character was renamed from Rachel Berner to Rachel Singer, and her fellow agents were renamed from Ehud and Zvi to David and Stefan. The character of the Nazi war criminal was renamed from Max Rainer to Dieter Vogel.
- 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.
- 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.
- The love triangle between Rachel and the other two agents is given much greater focus in the remake.
- The remake includes an extended scene, not in the original, where an attempt to transport the abducted Nazi out of Germany is botched.
- In the original film, it is only a journalist who investigates the possible existence of the Nazi war criminal in the 1990s, while in the remake it is the Israeli government as well.
- In the original film, Rachel travels with Ehud to Ukraine, but must complete the mission alone after Ehud suffers from cowardice; in the remake, Rachel goes to Ukraine by herself because David (Ehud) has killed himself.
- 2011 in film
- List of American films of 2011
- List of English-language films with previous foreign-language film versions
- List of films set in Berlin
- "The Debt (2011)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 20, 2011.
- [dead link] Kit, Broys (February 6, 2009). "Three Take Roles in John Madden's 'Debt'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 1, 2009.
- "Release Date Set for The Debt, Starring Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington". Punch-Drunk Critics. February 9, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
- . contactmusic.com.
- Pilkington, Mark (August 2011). "Helen Mirren's Secret", Cineplex Magazine.
- "TIFF Rolling Out Films that Cannes Missed". The Globe and Mail. July 28, 2010.
- "TIFF Movie Review: The Debt (2010)". September 14, 2010.
- "Trailer for 'The Debt' Starring Worthington and Mirren". RopeofSilicon. July 20, 2010.
- "Preliminary 2011 Oscar Contenders: Part Two". March 16, 2010.
- "The Debt". Washington District of Columbia Jewish Community Center.
- "Release Dates for The Debt". Internet Movie Database.
- "Lagging Miramax Deal Delays Two Films". deadline.com.
- "The Debt". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- "The Debt". Metacritic. Retrieved November 1, 2011.
- Alexander, Victoria (September 20, 2011). "The Debt". Films in Review. Retrieved July 9, 2012.
- Ebert, Roger. "The Debt". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "The Debt (2007)". Internet Movie Database.
- Official website
- The Debt Theatrical website
- The Debt at the Internet Movie Database
- The Debt at The Numbers
- The Debt at Rotten Tomatoes