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Laramie Movie Scope: The Debt

Cold war spy thriller about guilt

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 12, 2011 -- This spy thriller about a plot to kidnap a Nazi war criminal is filled with twists and turns, false memories, guilt, truth and lies. It is a tale that is a bit short on drama, but it does have some suspense and some good performances.

Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”) stars as Rachel Singer, a former Mossad agent who has been living with guilt for more than 30 years, along with two other agents, Stephan Gold (Tom Wilkinson of “The Conspirator” and David Peretz (Ciarán Hinds of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2”). The three have been lying about the success of a famous spy mission to East Germany in 1966 to capture a famous Nazi war criminal Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen of “Melancholia”). The three said they had killed Vogel, but after they captured Vogel, he escaped. They were unable to find him.

A newspaper story out of the Ukraine reveals that a man claiming to be Vogel is in a hospital there. Stephan asks Rachel to go to the Ukraine and find out if the patient is truly Vogel. If he is, she is to kill him. Rachel doesn't like the idea, but her daughter, Sarah (Romi Aboulafia of “Breaking and Entering”) has just published a book about her mother's famous mission to Berlin and Rachel can't stand the thought of the truth coming out now. At a reading of her daughter's book, we see the official version of the mission. Later on, we see what really happened. There are numerous flashbacks in the film. The younger versions of the three characters are played by Jessica Chastain of “The Help” (Rachel) Marton Csokas of “Alice in Wonderland” (Stephan) and Sam Worthington of “Avatar” (David).

The three former Mossad agents all handle the guilt in different ways. Stephan is firmly committed to stonewalling the whole affair. He has a successful political career to think of. David is ashamed of the cover up. He has spent years trying to track down Vogel. He wants to tell the truth and set the record straight. Rachel was content to live with the lie for many years, but lately the guilt is weighing on her. She has a lot of reservations about going to the Ukraine to kill an old man to protect her reputation. This film works as a suspense thriller and as a character study. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2011 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)