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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Debt

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain star in a scene from the movie "The Debt."
The spy thriller is alive and kicking in "The Debt" (Focus), a stylish—though frequently violent—remake of the 2007 Israeli film of the same name. Directed with flair by John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love"), "The Debt" follows top-rate actors across two time periods in a suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse that will keep mature viewers on the edge of their seats, guessing whether there's more to the central events than the official story recounts.

Thirty years after their secret mission in the 1960s to capture a Nazi war criminal, three Mossad agents—Rachel (Helen Mirren), Stephan (Tom Wilkinson) and David (Ciaran Hinds)—reunite to tell their tale in a new book. The details of their exploit are told in flashback by their younger selves, portrayed respectively by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington.

The trio became national heroes by tracking down and capturing Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), the "Surgeon of Birkenau," a Josef Mengele-like monster who killed thousands of Jews, young and old, through viciously inhumane experimentation during the Holocaust.

Vogel is discovered practicing as a gynecologist in 1965 East Berlin. The agents lay a trap with Rachel as bait; she poses as a young bride with fertility issues. Their scenes together in the examination room are squirm-inducing, as Rachel faces the man who murdered—among so many others—her own mother.

Vogel is captured and detained in the claustrophobic apartment the agents occupy, as they await the unfolding of their plan to smuggle him to the West—and to justice. When the first attempt fails, and the delay becomes interminable, patience wears thin. A psychological game begins, with Vogel—the bald, unrepentant face of anti-Semitism—playing the agents off against each other.

Rachel, an emotional wreck, has her judgment further clouded by her romantic feelings for both Stephan and David. Toss in unresolved issues of loss, anger, revenge, justice and honor and you have a deadly mix ready to explode.

While the elements listed below preclude endorsement for all but well-grounded adults open to challenging material, "The Debt" will certainly keep them guessing right to the end.

The film contains considerable bloody violence, a disturbing portrayal of anti-Semitism, brief nongraphic premarital sexual activity and some rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service





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Athanasius: Athanasius led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the Church. He was the great champion of the faith against the widespread heresy of Arianism, the teaching by Arius that Jesus was not truly divine. The vigor of his writings earned him the title of doctor of the Church. 
<p>Born of a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, and given a classical education, Athanasius became secretary to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, entered the priesthood and was eventually named bishop himself. His predecessor, Alexander, had been an outspoken critic of a new movement growing in the East—Arianism. </p><p>When Athanasius assumed his role as bishop of Alexandria, he continued the fight against Arianism. At first it seemed that the battle would be easily won and that Arianism would be condemned. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. The Council of Tyre was called and for several reasons that are still unclear, the Emperor Constantine exiled Athanasius to northern Gaul. This was to be the first in a series of travels and exiles reminiscent of the life of St. Paul. </p><p>After Constantine died, his son restored Athanasius as bishop. This lasted only a year, however, for he was deposed once again by a coalition of Arian bishops. Athanasius took his case to Rome, and Pope Julius I called a synod to review the case and other related matters. </p><p>Five times Athanasius was exiled for his defense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism. </p><p>Among his ascetical writings, his<i> Life of St. Anthony</i> (January 17) achieved astonishing popularity and contributed greatly to the establishment of monastic life throughout the Western Christian world.</p> American Catholic Blog Suffering is redemptive in part because it definitively reveals to man that he is not in fact God, and it thereby opens the human person to receive the divine.

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