A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"The Debt" weaves a tangled web of lies and deceptions around a seemingly heroic raid in 1965 carried out by three agents of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency known for more ability than it exhibits here. Their mission: Enter East Berlin with secret identities, kidnap a Nazi war criminal and bring him to Israel for trial. He is Vogel (Jesper Christensen), the notorious Surgeon of Birkenau, who conducted unspeakable procedures on his captives.
The film opens with the agents being welcomed on their return home to Israel. They are David (Sam Worthington), Rachel Singer (Jessica Chastain, of "The Tree of Life") and Stefan (Marton Csokas). In scenes set in 1997, they will be played by Ciaran Hinds, Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson. The later scenes involve the publication of a book about the famous raid by Rachel's daughter.
Not everything in the book is quite as it seems. Recent developments in the Ukraine have cast doubt on the now legendary intelligence operation, which would cast the Mossad in the unfortunate light of either not knowing or not admitting what really happened in 1965. That's intriguing for us, because "The Debt" does a splendid job of showing key early sequences in detail. To see is to believe. But we might not be seeing everything.
Because the film jumps the rails toward the end, it might be worth mentioning the good parts. Rachel poses as a woman consulting the ex-Nazi gynecologist, who is now in Buenos Aries. Consider putting your feet in the stirrups for the Surgeon of Birkenau. Then there's an ingenious operation, which I will not describe, to spirit him out of his clinic and into captivity. Separately, elaborate timing is used to allow a border crossing at a closed Berlin transit station.