THE DEBT opens with an intriguing bang, and closes with an fatiguing clang. But its two leading ladies had me at hello: Dame Helen Mirren queen of the movies, and Jessica Chastain the Meryl Streep of her generation– with 3 big movies out this summer (THE TREE OF LIFE, THE HELP), and at least as many accents. The two of them do their best to keep this chronologically challenged script from flying out of control, and slipping into incredulity. The first two thirds of the film succeed; the last bit takes a turn for the ludicrous.

The action begins in the past as three Israeli secret agents (Chastain, Sam Worthington, Martin Csokas) attempt to abduct a Nazi war criminal and bring him to trial. Jessica Chastain plays the beautiful young agent Rachel Singer, while Helen Mirren plays Rachel the elder, haunted by the secrets of the past. Jesper Christensen plays Dieter Vogel, the so-called Nazi “Surgeon of Birkenau,” and he deserves a special Oscar for fleshcrawling creepiness. I was with this film as it flashed forward and back in time, suspense building, a love triangle simmering; it all makes sense, the characters cook up a terrific heat and tension….the whole thing building to a present day moral and logistical conundrum,then…

… one twist too many– and it all collapses. Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds do their best to hold up the back end of the film as the elder versions of their studly former selves. But it’s the script that lets us down into a farfetched maze of coincidences, contrivances, and close encounters of the slasher movie kind.
Unfortunately, though much of the film earns our attention, THE DEBT doesn’t quite pay off.