Metascore
65

Generally favorable reviews - based on 37 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 37
  2. Negative: 0 out of 37
  1. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 30, 2011
    80
    This is real edge-of-your-seat stuff, in a throwback way - no booming special effects, just old-school timing and execution.
  2. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Sep 1, 2011
    67
    Perhaps the discrete delegation of the thrills to the 1966 story and the moral quandaries to the 1997 story is what prevents The Debt from congealing as well as it might have. Life is rarely that neat.
  3. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    The film's a potboiler but a gripping one, and it leaves you chewing on both its nuances and implausibilities.
  4. Reviewed by: Richard Mowe
    Aug 30, 2011
    60
    Just when many may have thought that Cold War thrillers had gone out of fashion, along comes one to reinvigorate the genre.
  5. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    Madden has the wisdom to give most of the heavy emotional lifting to Mirren, who continues to shine at the age of 66.
  6. Reviewed by: J.R. Jones
    Sep 1, 2011
    40
    A strong cast fails to rescue this ponderous Oscar bait.
  7. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Aug 30, 2011
    63
    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. Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds bring along the weight of their many earlier roles. To be sure, the older actors get some excitement of their own, but by then, the plot has lost its way.
  8. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Aug 30, 2011
    50
    Director Madden vacillates between treating the issues and historical context of The Debt seriously, and as the story demands, as pure, heavy-handed pulp. The cast does what it can in the service of this assignment. But some jobs simply resist satisfying completion.
  9. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Aug 31, 2011
    75
    Although they might have wished for something less conventional, it's the thrills that make this movie.
  10. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    Sep 26, 2011
    60
    A smart, tense, well-acted thriller undercut by a disappointing finale and an occasional lack of focus. But at least this offers something for those looking for a film with more on its mind than simple set-pieces.
  11. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Aug 31, 2011
    83
    The Debt is basically an entertaining riff on "Munich." It's about a (fictional) operation of top secret Israeli revenge, carried out by three highly trained agents whose plan goes off the rails in ways that are more fascinating than the mission itself.
  12. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Aug 30, 2011
    90
    Bristling with dangers both corporeal and cerebral, The Debt is a superbly crafted espionage thriller packed with Israeli-Nazi score settling.
  13. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    Aug 30, 2011
    60
    The Debt shortchanges itself severely with the weight it gives the portion of its story set further in the past.
  14. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Aug 31, 2011
    63
    There are some nice surprises in store, as well, but the longer Madden's story goes on, the more manufactured things tend to feel.
  15. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Aug 31, 2011
    60
    Despite some early whispers of awards potential, The Debt is nothing more than a gritty thriller with a highbrow pedigree.
  16. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Sep 2, 2011
    61
    The movie drowns the deeper questions it raises in a sadistic procedural, an endless circular motion of fight scenes whose only justification is themselves.
  17. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Aug 28, 2011
    75
    "The Debt," a very good 2007 Israeli thriller with Cold War and Holocaust connections, earns a nerve-wracking and entertaining Hollywood remake.
  18. Reviewed by: Steven Rea
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    What the three pairs of actors lack in semblance (or resemblance), they make up for to a great extent in their performances.
  19. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    A story like this requires a villain worthy of decades of built up horror and rage, and Christensen provides a thoroughly credible stimulus for the nail-biting events of the film.
  20. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    The acting is superb across-the-board, with the three younger performers deserving accolades.
  21. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Aug 31, 2011
    63
    Chastain (a nifty match-up with Mirren) is a live wire, and her scenes with Csokas and Worthington have a spark the later scenes lack. No matter. The Debt holds you in its grip.
  22. Reviewed by: Mick LaSalle
    Aug 31, 2011
    75
    It is an exciting movie, full of crises and dramatic turns despite an aura of sadness that seems to pervade it.
  23. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Aug 27, 2011
    63
    Its performances are resourceful and affecting, with Chastain and Worthington in the past sequences, and Mirren and Wilkinson in the later chapters, exuding a complicated mess of responsibility, guilt, sacrifice, revenge, and regret.
  24. Reviewed by: Calvin Wilson
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    The Debt eventually settles into a predictable groove that slightly undercuts its impact. Still, it's a film of ambition and substance.
  25. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Sep 7, 2011
    83
    Christensen plays him with Lecter-like intensity; the unsettling calmness of someone capable of anything.
  26. Reviewed by: Nathan Rabin
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    Madden's dark, moody, complex exploration of guilt and identity taps into a rich vein of moral ambiguity, but the filmmakers should know that in the face of unspeakable Nazi evil, the romantic problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans.
  27. Reviewed by: Rick Groen
    Aug 31, 2011
    63
    Political thrillers with flawed heroes demand a different potion, one that mixes the grit of reality with the seeds of excitement until they reach a critical mass and explode. In that sense, for all its strengths and good intentions, The Debt owes a debt to the wrong genre – Birkenau wasn't fantasy; too often, this movie is.
  28. Reviewed by: Kirk Honeycutt
    Sep 2, 2011
    60
    As a thriller, The Debt performs many if not all the right moves. Where the John Madden-directed film gets into trouble is in wanting to deal with the Holocaust without being entirely a period film.
  29. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Aug 30, 2011
    70
    As The Debt grows more complex and suspenseful, it also becomes more literal, losing some of its dramatic intensity.
  30. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Sep 5, 2011
    50
    As with Spielberg's "Munich," 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? What do we owe to The Debt? Whatever the sum, it is more than the film itself, gloomy with unease, seems able to repay.
  31. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Aug 31, 2011
    70
    The Debt is a little too gray and stolid - by which we may simply mean too true to its complex milieu - to qualify as scintillating entertainment. But at the end of a summer in which anything like reality was banned from movie houses, this gnarly political thriller has a tonic effect
  32. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Aug 30, 2011
    40
    Despite the chronological juggling, the film's stylistic debts (a Hitchcock flashback borrowed from Stage Fright, a Bertolucci-esque apartment sequence that could be titled Last Tango in Auschwitz) are simplistic to a fault; they lack the multifaceted suspense and sensuality typified by those directors at their best.
  33. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    With its blend of taut action and profound revelations, The Debt is definitely worth an audience's investment.
  34. Reviewed by: Jordan Mintzer
    Aug 30, 2011
    70
    The remake ups the adrenaline factor, and features strong performances 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.
  35. Reviewed by: Michael Atkinson
    Aug 30, 2011
    80
    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.
  36. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Sep 1, 2011
    50
    Any self-respecting period piece, historical drama or even caper movie - and The Debt is all three - balances issues of global significance with interpersonal drama. The problem here is that the personal eclipses the global. The stakes are too low.
  37. Reviewed by: John DeFore
    Aug 30, 2011
    75
    A more daring script might have found ways to tell the stories in parallel, doling out just enough information to keep viewers involved. But, as it is, The Debt grasps the viewer pretty firmly, delivering thrills without trivializing the moral quandaries that set it in motion.
User Score
6.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 120 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 40
  2. Negative: 4 out of 40
  1. Sep 2, 2011
    6
    It's a bit deceptive to give Helen Mirren star billing, because she's only onscreen for the first and final few minutes (although she IS aIt's a bit deceptive to give Helen Mirren star billing, because she's only onscreen for the first and final few minutes (although she IS a star and the fulcrum character). The majority of the film follows three Mossad agents with the mission of capturing a Nazi war criminal living in '60s East Berlin. It's bookended 30 years later, when the trio deals with their shameful secret. Although the story is interesting, the pacing is lax and the few mildly tense scenes aren't worth the payoff. The uniformly strong cast enhances the narrative, but a shorter, tauter film would have been more effective. Full Review »
  2. Nov 23, 2014
    6
    It's easy to be drawn in: an interesting mission spanning 30 years and presented with a well-casted set of actors. You may occasionally findIt's easy to be drawn in: an interesting mission spanning 30 years and presented with a well-casted set of actors. You may occasionally find yourself lost between what is past and what is present. Full Review »
  3. Sep 27, 2013
    9
    In a year where not many effective thrillers put all their cards on the table, The Debt is a sigh of relief. It is intelligent, and the wayIn a year where not many effective thrillers put all their cards on the table, The Debt is a sigh of relief. It is intelligent, and the way they did the flashback and present day was an interesting addition. Great acting, and good dramatic moments. This was actually a very thrilling movie. Full Review »