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‘The Debt’: Betsy Sharkey’s film pick of the week

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Though “The Debt” has only just landed in theaters, director John Madden’s spine-tingling spy thriller is one of those intelligent dramas likely to be pushed aside all too quickly in the fall crush.

There are many reasons not to miss this bristling tale of Mossad agents then — Nazi hunting in post-World War II East Berlin — and now in Tel Aviv. The story is being sold on the back of Oscar winner Helen Mirren, who plays Rachel, a long-retired agent pulled back into the fray to finish the job that shaped her life.

But the performance to go for is Jessica Chastain, who plays Rachel in her earlier defining moments. She is riveting as a young woman bound by her cause, her values tested, her love torn between other young firebrands played by the excellent Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington. And Jesper Christensen is bone-chilling evil incarnate as the Nazi surgeon being tracked.

Meanwhile, Madden has woven in a series of tightly coiled action sequences that make “The Debt” as breathless and bloody as it is brainy.

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— Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic


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