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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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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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