The film, directed by John Madden, is a remake of a 2007 film of the same name and starts in 1997, with ex-agent’s Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) learning of the fate of their colleague, David (Ciaran Hinds). After a book is penned about the three agents and their mission, we flash-back to 1965 where young Rachel (Jessica Chastain) meets up with young David (Sam Worthington) and young Stefan (Marton Csokas). This is where the majority of the story takes place and for much of the film it works very well. Chastain’s performance is restrained and works well off of the often quiet performance by Worthington. The flash-back story is where most of the weighty drama occurs in the story, however, these quieter moments are peppered with some great high-stakes sequences. Where the movie shines is in the “present” day scenes, simply because Helen Mirren is in them. Mirren’s performance is strong, and her presence in the movie dwarfs all the other actors and only enhances the story, which at times is flat when it should be kicking. The script, by Peter Straughan, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, hooks you in and gives you the info without giving anything away, the problem is when the big reveals come, there a tad predictable. Some parts of the story feel out of place and the second act of the film drags into the climax that most will see coming before it needs to be seen. Madden, who is best know for directing Shakespeare in Love, establishes a tense atmosphere in the 1965 part of the film and knows the presence of Mirren in the 1997 part is the driving force, which makes Madden’s job all that much easier.
These days, the thriller in general is losing it’s thrill, for lack of a better term, and for that fact, it’s hard to nitpick the film too much. The political-thriller is even more down in the dumps, and with The Debt, the intelligence of the story paired with the performances make for a refreshing running time. Helen Mirren is icing on the cake and overall, the film is quite good and will play very well if you are a fan of the genre. The already delayed film is set for a fall release, and most that had the film on their radar a year-ago are more than likely over the film completely, which will make it all that much better when they actually get to see it. All and all, this is a solid thriller that at times is thought-provoking and more often than not, is actually very entertaining.