The Debt Reviews

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Anna Smith
Time Out
September 27, 2011
'The Debt' tackles themes of humanity, revenge and truth so successfully it's hard not to find it powerful - even if it's not the Oscar bait it might have hoped to be.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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David Edelstein
New York Magazine/Vulture
September 6, 2011
After a gripping first half, turns into one howler after another. And yet it's still gripping.
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Anthony Lane
New Yorker
September 6, 2011
There is an awkward, irresoluble tension between the movie's urge to thrill and the weighty pull of the historical obligations that it seeks to assume. How much, to be blunt, should we be enjoying ourselves?
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Christopher Orr
The Atlantic
September 2, 2011
Vogel's introduction, 'This is my hand, and this is the speculum,' may at last have displaced the 'Is it safe?' of Christian Szell--another Mengele stand-in--as the most discomfiting sentence ever uttered by doctor to patient onscreen.
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Leah Rozen
TheWrap
September 2, 2011
Worthington shows a greater range and vulnerability here than he did in either Avatar or Clash of the Titans, where he mostly just flexed his pecs. He may be a genuine movie star yet.
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Michael Granberry
Dallas Morning News
September 1, 2011
Rather than focus on the evil of the Nazi villain, it wallows in the collective regret of three Israeli Mossad agents who in 1966 let the bad guy slip away when they had him in their clutches.
Full Review | Original Score: C-
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John Anderson
Wall Street Journal
September 1, 2011
There are movies you want to like that just won't let you.
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Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
September 1, 2011
The direction and performances remain as solid as ever, but they're both growing obscured by the top-heavy plot.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Tom Long
Detroit News
September 1, 2011
The Debt has the overall air of an Oscar contender that never got into the ring -- well-made, but not spectacular. Still, it serves as a fine, full introduction to Chastain's potential.
Full Review | Original Score: B-
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John DeFore
Washington Post
September 1, 2011
The Debt roots itself in reality more plausibly than most contemporary spy films without sacrificing the genre's tense thrills.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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September 1, 2011
The movie drowns the deeper questions it raises in a sadistic procedural, an endless circular motion of fight scenes whose only justification is themselves.
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J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader
September 1, 2011
A strong cast fails to rescue this ponderous Oscar bait.
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Peter Rainer
Christian Science Monitor
September 1, 2011
The thrills work out better than the smarts.
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Moira MacDonald
Seattle Times
September 1, 2011
Helen Mirren pulls off the impressive trick of dominating the movie even while she's absent for huge chunks of its running time.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Kyle Smith
New York Post
September 1, 2011
Awkwardly marrying "Munich"-style moral conundrums with cheesy Robert Ludlum stylings, the slow-paced thriller "The Debt" never pays off.
Full Review | Original Score: 1.5/4
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William Goss
Film.com
August 31, 2011
Madden's version maintains all the literal and figurative scars left on these characters, but everything here is made at least one degree more obvious, even as the screenplay tries mightily to hide its secrets.
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Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
August 31, 2011
A Nazi-hunting thriller deepens into a meditation on conscience in The Debt, a movie that holds you in its grip.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Owen Gleiberman
Entertainment Weekly
August 31, 2011
The Debt poses an arresting question: In a place that's as haunted by history as Israel is, can a lie ever really serve to prop up a larger truth?
Full Review | Original Score: B+
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Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune
August 31, 2011
The cast does what it can in the service of this assignment. But some jobs simply resist satisfying completion.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
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Richard Corliss
TIME Magazine
August 31, 2011
It's a wakeup face slap for a medium that has spent too many warm-weather nights dreaming of superheroes and frat boys.
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Keith Uhlich
Time Out
August 31, 2011
Solemnly tony Oscar bait.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/5
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Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
August 31, 2011
An excellent international spy thriller, wrapped up in an only-fair mystery.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Claudia Puig
USA Today
August 31, 2011
The film analyzes the implications of heroism and its burdensome weight. It also explores the haunting toll that comes with burying the truth.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Betsy Sharkey
Los Angeles Times
August 31, 2011
Bristling with dangers both corporeal and cerebral, "The Debt" is a superbly crafted espionage thriller packed with Israeli-Nazi score settling.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Mick LaSalle
San Francisco Chronicle
August 31, 2011
It is an exciting movie, full of crises and dramatic turns despite an aura of sadness that seems to pervade it.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
August 31, 2011
The architecture of "The Debt" has an unfortunate flaw. The younger versions of the characters have scenes that are intrinsically more exciting, but the actors playing the older versions are more interesting.
Full Review | Original Score: 2.5/4
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Elizabeth Weitzman
New York Daily News
August 31, 2011
Vogel is a genuinely chilling villain, and there are some deeply unsettling scenes between him and his captors.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Michael Atkinson
Village Voice
August 30, 2011
Predictably, the holes in the narrative set us up for a twist or three, but, in balance, it's a pleasure to be back in the wet alleys and spy-patrolled streets of the GDR, however vague they seem without '60s black-and-white cinematography.
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Nathan Rabin
AV Club
August 30, 2011
Madden's dark, moody, complex exploration of guilt and identity taps into a rich vein of moral ambiguity...
Full Review | Original Score: B
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Calvin Wilson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
August 30, 2011
"The Debt" eventually settles into a predictable groove that slightly undercuts its impact. Still, it's a film of ambition and substance.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Linda Barnard
Toronto Star
August 30, 2011
Relentlessly paced and artfully lensed and constructed, it's a first-rate thriller that explores loyalty, duty to country and self, and the price of deception with skill and razor-sharp precision.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
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Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune
August 30, 2011
A complex suspense story, with shifting chronologies and new angles of observation on a decades-old Mossad mission to Cold War East Berlin.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Steven Rea
Philadelphia Inquirer
August 30, 2011
What the three pairs of actors lack in semblance (or resemblance), they make up for to a great extent in their performances.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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James Berardinelli
ReelViews
August 30, 2011
The Debt functions both as an edge-of-the-seat thriller and an effective drama about the sometimes passionate, sometimes contentious relationships among the three main characters.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic
August 30, 2011
Put Helen Mirren and Tom Wilkinson together in a movie and chances are you're not going to be disappointed.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
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Christy Lemire
Associated Press
August 30, 2011
As it jumps back and forth in time, "The Debt" explores the conflict between expectations and reality, intellect and emotions, truth and regret.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Ty Burr
Boston Globe
August 30, 2011
The film's a potboiler but a gripping one, and it leaves you chewing on both its nuances and implausibilities.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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A.O. Scott
New York Times
August 30, 2011
It probes, with perhaps more energy than clarity, the ethical and psychological complications that can lie hidden beneath a story of simple heroism.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/5
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Glenn Kenny
MSN Movies
August 29, 2011
The moral has the force of a scolding rather than of a galvanic lived experience.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/5
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Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
September 6, 2010
As a thriller, The Debt performs many if not all the right moves. The suspense builds nicely, the twists come as surprises and its key characters are vivid enough.
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Jordan Mintzer
Variety
September 5, 2010
The remake ups the adrenaline factor, and features strong perfs across the board, yet feels bogged down by a weighty love triangle and a subject that merits more than the old-school good vs. evil approach.