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Matt's The Debt Review

Updated on January 21, 2012

It’s been a long time coming. The first trailer for The Debt was released almost a year before the movie hit theaters. I’m happy to say, it was well worth the wait. Awesome direction, tight storytelling and Oscar-level performances make The Debt a must see.

Observations

- All too often, you see spy-thrillers with almost no brains to the storytelling. They put action at the forefront and hope spectacle is enough to hide the fact that there’s no real substance to the proceedings. Not the case here. The Debt is a very smart film, and clear thought and artistry went into crafting the action sequences in this film. Never are any elements of realism sacrificed for the sake of flash. And there are no action sequences in The Debt that do not advance the plot and carry consequences within the story. And if what I just described sounded incredibly dull to you, never fear. There’s no lack of action, and when there is action, it’s fast, brutal and intense. Nerve-wracking even.

- Speaking of being nerve-wracking. There is a serious amount of intensity in this film, mostly derived from the way it’s shot and the excellence of the performances. Often the actors in this film communicate more with a look than they do with their words.

Performances

The performances in this film are virtually all Oscar caliber – and I’ll be frankly shocked if the academy overlooks this film. Rarely do I see a cast as universally capable as this one, and some of them weren’t even on screen for that long. It didn’t matter, they won me over anyway.

- Sam Worthington proves that he has serious acting skills in this film. He turns in a heart-wrenching, yet subtle performance in The Debt. He holds his own very well opposite his costars, I was impressed. I’ll be keeping an eye out for his future projects.

- OK, now it’s official, I am a fan of Jessica Chastain! She was beyond brilliant! And despite the gritty nature of the role, Chastain managed to inject emotional vulnerability into the part. This is important because of how complex the story and the characters are. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

- Helen Mirren carries much of the third act of the film with all the grace one would expect from an actress of her caliber. That’s a good thing too, because they needed someone that good for the third act to work.

- Explain to me again why Tom Wilkinson has yet to win an academy award. Wilkinson is the sort of actor who seems to crop up all over the place in various supporting roles. Seeing him in the cast list of a film is always cause for celebration because he’s brilliant. He holds the screen with such gravitas that he doesn’t need that much screen time to make an impression. He proves that point in The Debt.

Music, Cinematography and Special Effects

- Thomas Newman composed the score with all his usual skill. I don’t think this is a score that will stand on its own, but in the context of the film, I thought it worked very well.

- The Cinematography was very interesting. Lots of close-up shots, and a lot of really claustrophobic set-pieces. This is not a movie for scenery, but I really liked the camerawork, and I bought the 1960s setting hook, line and sinker.

- Like I said, there isn’t a lot of flashy stuff going on in this film. The action sequences were fast, gritty and intense. Everything is well executed and there were no gimmicks involved. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Bottom Line

I go to a lot of movies. And while I generally find something to enjoy in almost everything I choose to see, it’s a rare and wonderful thing to come across a movie this good. The Debt is proof that there are still filmmakers out there who know how to do thrillers right. It’s a smart, gripping movie that showcases great direction, Oscar caliber performances and razor-sharp storytelling. I can hardly wait to see it again! 9/10

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