Film Review: THE DEBT

Directed by John Madden
Written by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Strongman, based on the film “Ha-Hov”.
Starring: Helen Mirren, Jesper Christensen, Tom Wilksinson, Ciaran Hinds, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas

Plot: Three Mossad agents, Rachel, David and Stefan (Chastain, Worthington, Csokas) embark on a secret mission in East Berlin in the sixties. The mission concerns capturing a man known as the Surgeon of Birkenau (Christensen, in a terrific performance) for his horrific camp experiments during World War 2. Thirty years later, Rachel’s (now Helen Mirren) daughter writes an account of their raid. The three agents have to contend with the debut of the book, the resurfacing of secrets, and the reappearance of each other.

It is hard to tell much more about the plot without giving key elements away. But the film plays with time and space. It needs to do this to create excitement and it largely succeeds. There are several key scenes that top anything I have recently seen in terms of nail-biting dread. And Christensen is the perfect incarnation of evil.

A few flaws however. The young Stefan strongly resembles the older David. This was really a very bad idea in a movie that shifted times periods so often. And the last part of the movie bordered on the absurd for me. Helen Mirren, in particular, is asked to do some highly improbable things. So the most riveting and believable excitement is front loaded. Never mind that though because it is certainly there.

Despite these flaws, I found it to be a very suspenseful and entertaining film.

Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.