The Debt is one of those movies where characters deal with a Deep Dark Secret from Many Years Ago ™. And, to be fair, these are interesting characters. Tom Wilksinson, Helen Mirren, and Ciarin Hinds are former Mossad agents credited with taking out a prominent Nazi many years ago during a mission in East Berlin. Cue Samuel Jackson making a gun-to-the-head gesture and asking “taking out”? Yes, taking out. Mossad, dontchaknow? The Debt is about something that happens thirty years later.
Well, at least that’s what The Debt is about before it spends far too much time with the less interesting younger versions of the characters, particularly Jessica Chastain. She’s certainly lovely, and we know from Tree of Life that she’s capable of gravity. But here she’s just lovely and not much else. The most interesting thing about her is that she’s going to grow up into Helen Mirren. She does demonstrates one hell of a way to take out a gynecologist who you might suspect is a former Nazi, but that’s still not as interesting as growing up into Helen Mirren.
I saw in the credits that Sam Worthington was supposed to be in this movie, but I don’t recall seeing him. Maybe he was in the Sam Worthington-shaped hole that was moving around on screen a lot. And I’m always up for watching Marton Csokas, who you probably know as Mr. Galadriel in Lord of the Rings, or the agent who Matt Damon kills with a toaster and a magazine in Bourne Supremacy. But it wasn’t enough to keep me from wondering when we were going to get back to Helen Mirren. And when that finally happens, the movie is nearly over, leaving just enough time to literally stumble to a silly and hurried finale in which Mirren demonstrates that she is the worst secret agent ever.
Hey, Hollywood, can I tell you a secret? People over 40 are inherently more interesting than people under 40*. I say this having been on both sides of the equation. Now if your goal is to get people under 40 to see your crappy movie, good job focusing on Jessica Chastain. But if your goal is to tell an interesting story, The Debt is doing it wrong.
* if I knew how to do footnotes, here I would cite episode 12 of season two of Louie