Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) keeps things classy in this remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name. Helen Mirren stars as old Rachel Singer, a former Massad agent who is forced to come out of retirement upon the resurfacing of the Nazi who got away. The film alternates between Rachel’s search for the Mengelian “Doctor of Birkenau” in the present with that of her failed mission in the past. Back in 1966, Young Rachel (The Tree of Life‘s Jessica Chastain) and two male agents/admirers (Avatar‘s Sam Worthington and Martin Csokas who was an elf in the Lord of the Rings movies and is played by Tom Wilkinson in the present) were assigned the task of kidnapping said Doctor, now a practicing gynecologist, which inevitably leads to some tense scenes in the stirrups. There’s an effective, claustrophobic-inducing sequence in which the on-the-run Massad threesome are holed up with their captive behind enemy lines, but the rest of the film is comprised of common spy practices: false identities, hand-to-hand combat training, detailed escape plans. The film’s somewhat surprising resolution leads plenty of room for interpretation, both reasonable and absurd, but as far as Hollywood thrillers go, this one’s not half bad.
The Debt opens wide in Philly-area theaters today.