Reel Critics: Political spy thriller pays its 'Debt'

Director John Madden and Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren first teamed up in "Prime Suspect," the acclaimed detective series on British television.

They transfer much of the gritty tension created in that effort to "The Debt," their new political thriller. Espionage and international intrigue are front and center in this pressure-packed drama that spans decades of late 20th century history.

Mirren stars as the elder version of Israeli Mossad agent Rachel Singer. Jessica Chastain is riveting, playing the same character as a younger woman on assignment in East Berlin in 1965. Together they help unfold the complex story of a major spy mission that led to the capture of a Nazi doctor on the run after World War II.

What really happens after his capture becomes a puzzle played out in the shadow of the Cold War. The second half of the movie adds more strange twists and turns to the story. Great production values and the intelligent screenplay make it user-friendly for a grown up audience.

Overall it's a well-acted and thoughtful example of a spy thriller that's a cut above the genre.


'Our Idiot Brother' is also very likable

It's rare to see a good-natured adult comedy in theaters during the summer blockbuster season. But "Our Idiot Brother" has exactly the kind of sweet, yet punchy, humor you would welcome any time of year. Paul Rudd makes it all work playing the nerdy but very likable Ned.

He's a very honest, sensitive guy who never lies and trusts everyone he meets. Of course, this attitude lands him in trouble with friends, family and the law. His three worldly and wise sisters think he's a naïve dork not to be taken seriously. But they're forced to help him out when he loses his livelihood, girlfriend and home after a marijuana bust.

Ned lands for a time in each sister's home. During his stay, his seemingly innocent comments and actions reveal darkly hidden aspects of their own lives. Major changes are launched in the sisters' lifestyles because of Ned's honest observations of what's going on. There's some R-rated language, but this is a feel-good film that offers gentle wit and lots of smiles along the way.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

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