Review – The Debt

Hollywood has taught us that being a secret agent involves gadgets, girls and getaways. In reality, intelligence agents are living among us every day, with the primary goal of blending in. You know that quiet guy at your work who tells you his weekend always involves vacuuming and reading the Sunday papers? He’s probably a spy. Basically, they are paid to live a lie.

I once applied for an intelligence job and one of the prerequisites was being able to go unnoticed in any given situation. I got through to their ‘testing’ stage and during the process wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it. When I showed up to the building for ‘testing’, they had given me an alias to register under as well as a fake business name. They’re probably reading this right now and a team is on the way to silence me (I love you Gemma).

‘The Debt’ is an intelligent spy thriller that takes a realistic look at the life of an agent and the burden of living with a secret.

Rachel (Helen Mirren) is a retired Mossad agent who is considered a national hero for her work bringing a Nazi war criminal to justice in the 60s. After being contacted by two of her former colleagues, she is forced to relive the experience and stop the truth about the mission being exposed.

Split across two different time periods, the story cleverly unfolds and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on edge. It’s all thanks to a good screenplay from Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan who are an outstanding writing team. Vaughn and Goldman worked together on ‘Kick Ass’ and ‘X-Men: First Class’, while Straughan has worked on ‘The Men Who Stare at Goats’ and recently ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ – impressive. A prolonged finale lets the dream team down. If only they’d shown a little restraint the ending could have had more of an impact.

John ‘I directed Shakespeare in Love’ Madden throws all the spy gimmicks and bad rip-offs of the ‘Bourne’ series aside and delivers good thrills and gripping drama. It’s almost like he’s auditioning to direct Daniel Craig in a future Bond film.

Mirren is good as always, helped out by Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds. Playing younger versions of the trio are Jessica Chastain, Matron Csokas and Sam Worthington. It could be said that 2011 has been the year of Chastain and ‘The Debt’ adds to her dream run. Csokas is great but Worthington fares badly, spending the whole film skewing yet another accent.

‘The Debt’ tickles your brain and gets your heart pumping enough to keep you satisfied until the next appearance of James Bond.


‘The Debt’ is now showing.

Universal Pictures

The Popcorn Junkie