The 2011 thriller “The Debt” isn’t your standard Hollywood fare. Too many modern dramas substitute plot twists for credible narratives, and don’t start me on that shaky cam nightmare.
“The Debt” proved to be everything you could want in the genre – a crackling cast led by Jessica Chastain, a potent tale of the hunt for a Nazi criminal and enough cogent storytelling to keep you rooted to both the characters and their fates.
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Yet “The Debt,” out on Blu-ray and DVD this week, couldn’t find its audience despite hitting theaters on Aug. 31, one of the least competitive times for film releases. The film’s $31 million haul isn’t an embarrassment – ask Sarah Jessica Parker about her $9 million flop “I Don’t Know How She Does It” which opened two weeks later. “The Debt” deserved a better reception from ticket buyers.
Helen Mirren stars as Rachel, a retired Mossad agent basking in the glow of her daughter’s new book release. The tome recalls Rachel’s capture of Dieter Vogel, one of the Holocaust’s greatest monsters. The story soon flashes back to 1966, and Rachel (“The Tree of Life’s” Chastain) along with two fellow agents (Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas) are planning to kidnap Dieter (Jesper Christensen), living anonymously as a gynecologist in East Germany.
Rachel poses as a patient to get close enough to Dieter to confirm his identity. Meanwhile, her fellow agents are torn between completing their mission and feelings they’re developing for Rachel.
“The Debt” scores on a host of levels, from an improbable love triangle to a morality tale about dealing with an amoral soul. Christensen is wicked to the core as Dieter, even when he’s acting in a professional capacity. He can burrow deep into a person’s neuroses one minute, and then express profound sympathies the next. In both cases he comes across as utterly believable.
The film’s Blu-ray release includes a small array of goodies including feature commentary from director John Madden and producer Kris Thykier and three short “making-of” style featurettes.