The movie, that cuts back and forth from 1966 Berlin and 1997 Tel Aviv, focuses on three Mossad agents who, during the Cold War, have to capture a war criminal, a physician who performed horrific experiments in the camps. The trouble is he hid in East Berlin, so the agents must smuggle him and themselves into West Berlin in a tricky operation that requires split-second timing.
Rachel (Jessica Chastain), on her first operational assignment, and David (Sam Worthington) pretend to be a married couple with infertility problems in order to trap the physician, who practices gynecology. Stefan (Marton Csokas) pretty much runs the operation out of a dismal upstairs flat in a decaying part of the city.
The close quarters help foster a sexual triangle among the trio in which David, who has fallen for Rachel, is unable to make the first move, but Stefan is more than willing. All are deeply damaged individuals, Holocaust survivors painfully aware of their own families' tragedies in Nazi Germany. The mission fails and the target vanishes in thin air. When they come back home, they are unable to admit their defeat, and claim to have killed him.
Thirty-one years later, the three are considered heroes in Israel. Rachel (Mirren) married Stefan (Tom Wilkinson), and a daughter has just written a book about her parents' legendary exploit. David (Ciarán Hinds) disappeared years ago to travel widely and decides to set the record straight after reports surface that the target of their original mission is alive. His sudden re-appearance coinciding with the book's publication triggers a crisis for all three. It seems they have all hidden certain facts about their heroic deed and Rachel must go back to Eastern Europe to uncover the truth. Overwhelmed by haunting memories of her younger self and her two fellow agents, the still-celebrated heroine must relive the trauma of those events and confront the debt she has incurred.
The shared history that binds David and Stephan to Rachel was borne out in the casting of Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson, both of whom had worked before with Helen Mirren.
"This is in fact the sixth time that Ciarán has worked with Helen, comments Madden. They truly do have a long history together, and in this particular movie they bring a poignancy to their characters' relationship."
Hinds muses, "I seem to ambush Helen every five years or so. It's enormously pleasing, and the experience is always compelling - for me, at any rate!"
"I considered it a great honor to be in the company of Helen and Tom, and I'd heard how wonderful John was to work with, so I was thrilled when he asked me to play this role. He's a great director."
Mirren comments, "For the scenes that we share in The Debt, it was a great advantage to have worked with these two actors before."
Co-stars: Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Jessica Chastain, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas, Jesper Christensen
Director: John Madden
Screenplay: Assaf Bernstein and Jane Goldman
Run-time: 110 mn
Release date: August 31, 2011
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