Debt, The (UK - DVD R2)
Three agents tell a big lie and Marcus has to deal with it on this DVD release
1965 Berlin. Three Mossad Agents, Rachel (Jessica Chastain), Stephen (Marton Csokas) and David (Sam Worthington) have a mission to track down and bring back a Nazi war criminal to be tried for his crimes. Finding their target, the trio manage to kidnap him but after a botched escape to get out of the country, the agents take him back to their apartment. Soon the strains of not knowing what to do next weigh on the agents and through a series of events the three agree upon a lie that will affect their lives for the next thirty years.
It's difficult to talk too much about The Debt without giving the game away. It's not that there's a massive twist or anything but this well plotted story (written by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Solider Spy) as well as Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman of X-Men First Class) takes its time to click but when it does The Debt comes pretty close to being something great.
The cast, especially the young versions of the characters really began to grow on me. Their mission, which initially feels quite bland becomes quite compelling and the struggles with their captured Nazi doctor really began to draw me in. Jessica Chastain was especially strong in her role but the support from Csokas and Worthington (who never quite hides his Australian accent - again) really makes the lie they forge a good springboard into the final act of the film.
Thirty years on, where Rachel is now played by Dame Helen Mirren and once again the story is handled very well. I honestly thought on first glance of The Debt's trailer these elements would bore me but the set up is so strong that it was interesting to see how these three agents lives had been affected by their choices.
Again going deeper into the story doesn't seem fair as The Debt is a loose but well plotted thriller that moves at a good pace (in fact it seemed to fly by) and managed to pull off a strong enough pay off, despite its many cliché elements. It's certainly not strong enough to stand out amongst the crowd of 2011 releases but it had something special about it and I was entertained once the story clicked.
The Debt sticks to its style throughout but this really is a drab looking DVD for the most part. Blacks are closer to dark blues which doesn't help with heavy use of dark elements in scenes with a strong use of shadows as well relatively natural lighting. In darker scenes there are a lot of orange lit backdrops that are usually covered with a piece of furniture or curtains that add a nice glow to the image from time to time.
Daytime scenes can look a little washy and soft and more often than not grey and blue, other than Rachel's red hair and the odd unexpected colour here and there. The beach front scene ups the blues to a warmer, richer tone for a few brief moments then we're off again to greysville. As for textures, they aren't all that great in this standard definition release but wrinkles and blemishes on faces have their moments.
This Dolby Digital 5.1 track has a good multi layered appeal to it. We start with applause in the opening scene that feels like a room full of people, just like it should and after that there's always a nice ambience to scenes. The score darts around front and rear speakers with elements doing different things. Strings tend to lift scenes in the rears while more airy elements fill out the track in the fronts. These combined make for quite the drive to key scenes and as another plus it's always powerful.
Dialogue is always crisp and usually quite natural sounding with a bit of echo in bigger sets and sound effects follow the same rules with scuffing shoes on pavements, raindrops and car doors slamming sounding real world and natural - well other than a heightened shaving scene where every britle can be heard as the razor slides across a character's chin.
The disc opens with trailers for Universal Blu-ray and Contraband.
The commentary with director John Madden and producer Kris Thykier is quite laid back and mostly Madden orientated. It deals with the technicalities of making the film a lot and of course the film's themes. It's a good addition to the film but not a track that's all that exciting to listen to.
'Look Inside The Debt' (03:10) is mostly the trailer intercut with EPK style interview snippets and 'The Berlin Affair: The Triangle at the Centre of The Debt' (02:14) very much more of the same.
It took a good half an hour to click but I ended up liking The Debt. The motivations from the younger versions of the characters really bled through to the later part of the characters' lives and the strength of the lie forged by the group of agents worked very well for me. The disc is a little mundane visuals wise but makes up for any shortcomings with the audio which is good and strong. However the extras are pretty pointless outside of the commentary track.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 23rd January 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, English Audio Description
Subtitles: Danish, English Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Commentary, Featurettes
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Madden
Cast: Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Marton Csokas, Jessica Chastain
Genre: Drama and Thriller
Length: 113 minutes
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