Monday, 19 December 2011

The Debt, dir. John Madden, wr. Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, Peter Straughan, st. Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Ciarán Hinds, Jessica Chastain

A kind of Munich-lite confirmed by the presence of Mrs. Jonathan Ross on scriptwriting duties, whose Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class were both pretty flabby affairs. This sporadically engaging film tells the story of a triumvirate of Mossad agents dispatched to East Berlin in 1966 to locate and capture "The Surgeon of Birkenau" a kind of fictional Josef Mengele. After he evades them, the trio decide to lie about his death in order to boost the national sense of justice and alleviate their own shame at failure at their mission. There's an interesting semi-pertiment link to the present as the group discuss how a well disseminated lie is as powerful as the truth would be destructive, an idea that resounds strongly with Bin Laden's then recent covert dispatch and swift burial. Chastain as one of the three agents forms the empathic core of the film, interest in her burgeoning career well and truly deserved, and Worthington and Csokas give solid support, but it's Mirren who fares less well. Quite simply she's better than the material that makes up the film's present-day flashforwards, and where there's genuine suspense and the thumping sense of something at stake in the 60s set scenes, there's incredulity and hamminess in the present. Props though to Thomas Newman's score and Bond's "Mr. White" Jesper Christensen as the impassive war-criminal.