With a high profile American remake hitting theaters (starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson, and Jessica Chastain among others), I hope that the riveting 2007 Israeli picture that is its source material will get much more attention. This complicated adult thriller works on a myriad of levels and absolutely knocked me out when I first saw it. A complex narrative featuring alternate timelines highlights a tale of responsibility and recriminations across decades and international borders. Serious political thrillers can oftentimes be antiseptic or too aloof, but this hard-edged story covers a lot of ground while still remaining an intensely personal experience. At its heart, it is about individuals with a strong sense of duty battling with the morality and ethics of the position that they are put into. Emotionally and intellectually challenging, this is a film of unrelenting tension that had me enthralled throughout its running time.
Starting in 2007, the film opens with an ex-Mossad agent played by Gila Almagor stepping up to receive accolades upon the publishing of her account of an infamous case thirty-five years in the past. As a young agent, she was part of a team that took down an infamous war criminal. All, however, might not be what it seems when it comes to this momentous event. Through a series of tensely escalating flashbacks, we are clued in to what really happened in 1964--and it does not match the official accounting. Still struggling with the truth, Almagor is given a very real chance to face the repercussions of her decisions as a youth. She decides to put herself on the line again out of a combined sense of duty and guilt, and the picture continues to play out as a timely and relevant morality play.
I appreciated "The Debt," and its intricate screenplay, in that it integrates the two timelines seamlessly. Both are completely interesting, entertaining, and exciting in their own right--but together, they make something so much more powerful and thoughtful. Almagor is terrific, and Nety Garty as her younger counterpoint gives a star making performance. A serious and easy recommendation for adult audiences, I wished this had been more widely seen before its more visible remake hit the theaters. But even if you've seen the second picture, I'd recommend giving the original a try as well. It is bold and satisfying Israeli filmmaking and the narrative strikes much closer to home for that fact. Exceedingly well acted and intelligent, the film is an emotional roller coaster that's not afraid to examine moral complexities and difficult decisions in the political arena without ever seeming pedantic or preachy. I truly loved it. KGHarris, 9/11.