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The Debt

Silly shenanigans spoil an otherwise taut thriller

Three Mossad spies sneak into East Berlin on a mission to capture Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen: A Family). They return to Israel heroes, with a daring story of espionage and the scars to prove it. Thirty years later, the former spies are still national heroes and celebrities thanks to a new book on the mission. Problem is the book and the official story are lies. When a man in a Ukrainian nursing home claims he is in fact Vogel, the team must go on one last mission to protect their reputations.
    Cutting between the 1966 mission and the 1997 aftermath, the film deftly makes the most of the cast. As the young spies, Jessica Chastain, Sam Worthington and Marton Csokas are people of action, young, beautiful and green in the field. As the older, wiser and mildly arthritic spies, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds and Tom Wilkinson are given more meaty roles emoting the guilt and fear of living a monumental lie.
    There’s no question that the 1960s’ scenes are more fun. The spies are beautiful, the Nazi is a master manipulator and the danger is palpable. Still, I find it somewhat insulting that the only female spy — a tough-as-nails Mossad agent when sparring with her team — can’t fight off a Nazi doctor in his mid-50s.
    The film is a fun if generic spy thriller, but it’s weighed-down by a ridiculous, weepy love triangle and an ending so stupid that it almost ruins the whole movie. If you see The Debt, leave 15 minutes early — you’ll thank me.

Good Spy Thriller • R • 114 mins.