‘The Truth’ or ‘The Truth That Needs To Be Said’? this is one of the dilemmas facing the heroes of ‘The Debt’, which is quite an exotic entry in the list of films made by John Madden, the exoticism being that it’s well closer to the pattern of routine Hollywood thrillers than movies like Shakespeare in Love or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

 

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1226753/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1226753/

 

There are however a few reasons that make this film interesting, even if you are not necessarily a fan of Mossad action movies processed by the American commercial cinema filters. This is the story of an unfinished business which involves a team of Israeli idealistic young agents of Mossad trying to capture in the 60s one of the notorious war criminals modeled on the  image of ‘doctor’ Mengele. Their mission takes them in no other place than East Berlin in the days of the Cold War, and when things go wrong they have to make extreme choices – not only about life and death, but also about absolute and convenient truth. The story alternates between the 60s and the 90s, which opens another kind of question mark about whether big mistakes can ever be fixed. Of course they can, it’s Hollywood stuff after all. This does not necessarily result in a great movie.

 

(video source MOVIECLIPS)

 

While the premises are interesting the execution is far from brilliant. Director Madden brings nothing new in a genre that had so many successes and even more failures, beyond quite a rigorous and detailed rendition of the East Berlin atmosphere. The biggest failure is however in the way he directs the characters of his Israeli heroes. They behave and talk like no Israeli, and even the setting of the scenes supposed to take place in Israel in Israeli location does not help. The approach is superficial and does not go too deep beyond the crust of the characters, and this crust does not seem genuine at all. I love Helen Mirren, she is best as queens or chief-detective roles, and I found even her acting as a retired agent in the RED series to be delicious. Here she undertakes another retired agent role, and I am sorry to say, she is not at her best. As a general note, the actors that play the three heroes in the 60s and in the 90s did not connect well with each other, I could not recognize the characters at all over the years. At the end of the screening I remained with the feeling that the makers of this film still have some ‘Debt’ to their viewers.