Debt, The
R
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: -3

Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Chastain, Ciaran Hinds. Crime/thriller. Written by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman. Directed by John Madden.

FILM SYNOPSIS: The action thriller occurs over two time periods and concerns three retired secret agents who were venerated for a mission back in the 1960s. Their mission was to capture a sadistic doctor who had performed experiments on Jews during WWII. But they have held a secret for over thirty years. Unbeknownst to their adoring fans, their prisoner had escaped. Afraid of telling the world of their failure, they had conjured up a story wherein the doctor was killed attempting to escape. But as will happen, the secret lie manifests in a soul-destructing manner. And now all those years later, they find they must hunt down the same enemy, this time to protect their reputation.

PREVIEW REVIEW: A film for those tired of caped crusaders and crude comedies, The Debt is a mind grabber. Director John Madden (Proof, Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love) uses every weapon in his arsenal – cinematography, lighting, sound, and a top-notch cast – to aid the trenchant script by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman. But the moviemakers again played it safe, betting we’d prefer jolting R-rated intensity to thoughtful pulp-like noir. And though it slightly explores the effects of moral decisions, ultimately they abandon the illusionary component of the art form in preference to graphic excess.

Along with violent action that includes stabbings, shootings and beatings, we also see a man commit suicide by stepping in front of a bus. Must we see a CGI effect that magically duplicates the look of a person actually hit by a bus? Does the audience really need this nerve-shocking realism? I’m not sure we realize the impact such a reenactment has on the psyche.

My other complaint has to do with the action ending preempting the story’s moral message. To say more would give a plot point away, so, I will leave it at this: with a little more trust that the audience would be just as satisfied with an uplifted ideal as with a final bloody showdown, the filmmakers might have given us a great psychological thriller. Instead we are given one more violent action adventure – like we don’t have enough of those.

DVD Alternative: The Third Man. A 4-star film noir thriller about a manipulative expatriate (Orson Welles), during the Cold War. Brilliant filmmaking.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Focus Features

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: Twelve obscenities, mostly the f-word.
Profanity: I caught no misuse of God’s name or Christ’s.
Violence: Several violent and graphic acts that included stabbings with scissors, shootings, beatings and a realistic CGI effect of a man killing himself by stepping out in front of a bus. Lots of blood.
Sexual Intercourse: An implied sex act.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Some drinking.
Other: None
Running Time: 120 minutes
Intended Audience: Mature viewers.

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