The Debt, Blu-ray (2011)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain, Tom Wilkinson
Director: John Madden
Studio: Miramax Films 62119711 [12/6/11]
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English/German/Russian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French/Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: A Look Inside The Debt, “Every Secret Has a Price: Helen Mirren in The Debt,” “The Berlin Affair: The Triangle at the Center of The Debt,” Commentary track with John Madden and producer Kris Thykier, Pocket BLU app, BD Live
Length: 113 minutes
This very well-done spy thriller moves back and forth between two times in telling the story of three Israeli Mossad agents assigned in 1955-56 to bringing to justice a terrible Nazi war criminal. They decide to keep secret their failed mission when they kidnap the Nazi doctor but he escapes, saying they had to kill him so he couldn’t stand trial. The truth comes out in 1997, when two of the three—who had since been married— learn that their former colleague killed himself because he couldn’t face the lie they had long lived with. Things are complicated by the fact that Rachel’s (Mirren) daughter has meanwhile written a successful book about the escapade of her parents.
The gaps between the original struggle they had and the present day takes its toll on all three of the original agents. Three other actors play the younger agents in 1955-56, and Jessica Chastain is a standout as the young Rachel. The politically-charged story and especially the devastating ending are superbly done, leaving the viewer to decide if Rachel—who finally is determined to tell the truth—actually lives past paying off the debt or not. All six actors, in both the ‘50s and ‘90s scenes, make for a powerhouse trio. The film is an American re-make of an Israeli original; usually I ignore American re-makes of foreign films (as with the current Girl With a Dragon Tattoo), but I never knew about the Israeli original and missed it. The transfer looks great. The many dark scenes look suitably dark. The bonus features look like variations on a theme trailers, except for the commentary track, which I lacked the time to check out.
If any recording is essential to the genre, this is it.