THE DEBT

Using Nazi atrocities to fuel melodrama raises issues of taste and
appropriateness — and that point needs to be made despite the
pleasures of watching the story play out. Unlike Steven Spielberg's
similarly themed MUNICH, this English-language remake of an Israeli
thriller isn't so much interested in Big Issues (Jewish identity, the
cycle of violence) as it is in creating a contrived dilemma, then
adding derring-do spy stuff amid a lot of hand-wringing. The target,
clearly meant to be Dr. Josef Mengele, is more like a James Bond
villain than the “Angel of Death” himself. (Only one sequence taps the
deeper horror: when Jessica Chastain, as the young Helen Mirren, looks
through photographs for the first time of the mad doctor's victims —
photos whose images we can't quite make out… except to see that
they're horrific.) If you saw Chastain as the bottle blond rocket in
THE HELP or soldier-bland Sam Worthington in AVATAR, you wouldn't
imagine them as Holocaust survivors (or Mossad agents). But they're
both solid, as of course are the pair who play their older selves,
Helen Mirren and Tom Wikinson. — Jeff Schultz

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