Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Debt. B

The Debt is a nice little spy tale, set more on characters, relationships, and quiet suspense than today's standard of "excitement". It uses the same set of characters in two different time periods, one in the sixties and one in the late nineties. The earlier story concerns three spies trying to capture a nazi surgeon responsible for thousands of deaths during WWII. The middle hour of the film concerns this storyline, and it's the most engrossing part of the movie. Jessica Chastain plays one of the spies, and she's terrific here, managing both a difficult accent and a complex character. While she doesn't seem entirely comfortable (at the time she was still trying to make it as an actress), she still displays mastery of her character. One of the many films she appeared in last year, this one is worth seeing just as a reminder that she's going to be a great actress for a long time. I was feeling like this was one of the better spy tales in a while (though the best still belongs to Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy), but then that solid middle hour came to an end and the for the last forty minutes or so, the film moves to the present and proceeds to become something ridiculous. You can almost see director John Madden arguing with studio execs and reaching a compromise that he can do what he wants with the middle portion of the movie, but the last segment has to satisfy a mass audience. And so we get a pretty contrived finish that, while not messing with the logic of the film, doesn't match the quiet mood established by Madden earlier on. We've seen this in countless films where a good story is sacrificed for a stupid climax in order to satisfy that group of people who might see things in reverse. They're bored by something smart and need a jolt at the end to leave the theater happy. For the rest of us, the movie ends on a sour note. Gladly, there's so much that The Debt gets right that we leave it still remembering those moments, even if they've been tarnished slightly be a bad ending. 

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