User Score
6.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 117 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 86 out of 117
  2. Negative: 8 out of 117

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  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 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. Expand
  2. Jan 21, 2012
    4
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. I had high hopes for The Debt, which is why I'm sorry to give it such a low rating. It's billed as a thriller, but the parts that are supposed to be thrilling never really had me on the edge of my seat. Part of the problem stems from the "revised history" they show the audience at the beginning of the film. This alludes to a portion of the story that it then takes them roughly an hour to actually reach, so everyone is well aware of where the movie will eventually go. Also, I was a little put off by the deception perpetrated by the main characters. Essentially, the "good guys" don't come off as very good at all. Long story short: The Debt suffers from some poor pacing and awkward storytelling. And it's a bit of a downer. Expand
  3. Sep 9, 2011
    10
    One of the best movies I've seen in years. It had me on the edge of my seat but was much more than just an action flick. I really believed in and empathised with the characters. It drew me in to the point that I had to rush back to my computer to google it to find out if it was based on true events. 10 points!
  4. Sep 18, 2011
    9
    Very well made and acted, The Debt is a thriller with a definite European style and an intellectual point to make. Many thrillers skirt the issue of whether or not the "hero's" actions can be justified - whether the ends justify the means. This movie sets about the task of asking the question directly and provides an existential answer. There is true suspense in this film, and it is unrelenting. I was entirely engrossed. If you liked "Tell No One," you'll really like this. Expand
  5. Sep 8, 2011
    8
    The Debt is an thriller, but an understated, sophisticated one. A Very, very intriguing plot, and brilliant acting. I'm not even referring to Helen Mirren, her performance is fine, but Jessica Chastain really steals the show. She is a fantastic actress and a star in the making. All in all, The Debt is a great movie. Go see it.
  6. Sep 5, 2011
    1
    In what had the potential to be a gripping thriller, The Debt takes way too long to get to its interesting plot twist, which turns out to be poorly overwritten, pathetically directed and mind-numbingly paced, even stellar acting pedigree cannot save this immensely bad film.  
  7. Oct 3, 2011
    5
    Well this was absolutely nothing new and you knew the story line early on. They spent way too much time on the first attempt to kill the doctor and left the suspense of the second attempt to a cheap trick you have seen a million times in other movies. This subject has been covered a million times and covered a million times better. Go when there is really nothing else to see. That is what we did. Even then it still plays out as only average. Expand
  8. Sep 6, 2011
    8
    Although Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson get top billing because of their star power, they are actually the supporting cast. Most of the film is about the three young actors that play them 30 years ago. They go to communist East Germany to capture a former Concentration Camp torturer so they can take him back to Israel for trials for his misdeeds, but they bungle the kidnapping. I thought the film was well acted and it held my attention the entire time. The only problem I had was that the older actors looked NOTHING like they younger ones with the exception of Helen Mirren. They should have found actors that at least looked similar to each other. Some of this film is not easy to watch, particularily the Gynecologist scenes so be prepared. It deserves its R rating. Expand
  9. Sep 12, 2011
    7
    A rather generally well worn theme, but well acted. The character development was quite good, and the movie was at times suspenseful and moved along well. The plot twist at the end was unfortunately quite predictable, but still, all in all a good film and worth seeing. Jessica Chastain's performance of a damaged, vulnerable but committed young woman was understated, exceptional, very well done, and well worth the price of admission to see. Expand
  10. Nov 11, 2012
    7
    Create you a climax of uncertainty, where at the end you get the surprise that everything was a farce and leaves you the moral that, when assembled things with lies always will come out to light things until you finish it of yourself, perhaps was not a masterpiece nor the movie of the year, but it was a good movie well structured, wrapping machines and with good performances.
  11. Sep 14, 2011
    5
    This movie was boring and didn't make much sense. I can't believe the characters would have even come close to behaving the way they did. I gave it a 5 because it was pretty good when Helen Mirren was on screen. She is such a wonderful actress, she could save almost anything.
  12. Sep 14, 2011
    7
    This movie isn't exactly what I expected it to be, and that's a good thing. From the trailers and through the media, it sounded mostly like it would take place in present time, with the occasional flashback. What it really was was mainly flashbacks, with the occasional flash forward. Based on the fact I was most intrigued on the Cold War story line, this was a good thing. The Debt was a well made movie, with a great script, great performances (though if you're a Helen Mirren fan, you may be let down, as she's barely in the movie) and several twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. In my opinion, this was the movie of the summer, and a bright spot in a summer of high-budget, low quality action movies. A solid Cold War espionage thriller. Expand
  13. Sep 23, 2011
    7
    In a sea of predictable, bland and generally un-thrilling thrillers, The Debt is a breath of fresh air. Helen Mirren (Even though her screen time is severely limited) shines as usual, and Jessica Chastain proves that she's a star in the making with a heaping amount of acting talent. There are some casting issues, but they can be forgiven for the stylish direction and dramatic, quality ending.
  14. Sep 17, 2012
    8
    The Debt was smart, remake that actually works. Instead confusing structure, script by its three writers are solid. Also thanks for Madden's intense direction.
  15. Sep 11, 2011
    1
    Plodding, that is the best way to describe this movie. It has the right elements but not put together in a way that keep you wondering. Now maybe that is unfair because halfway through the movie I couldn't take it any more and walked out. I don't do that often but I just couldn't take it any longer. See on DVD so you can fast forward.
  16. Sep 24, 2011
    7
    Superbly acted, extremely well written and with a gut wrenching ending to boot, "The Debt" is a terrific addition to The Holocaust/spy movie genre. This movie asks and to some extent answers the question: "What happens to the hunters when the hunted continues to control their lives long after the hunt is over?"

    I do agree with Roger Ebert that the one major flaw in this film is the fact
    that the actors who portray the three protagonists in 1965 look nothing like the actors who portray them in 1997. It took me almost an hour to figure out who was playing Sam Waterson's character, David, 30 years after the mission that defined their lives. This was a major distraction early on because the movie toggles back and forth through time. Nevertheless, the plot is so compelling and the acting is so powerful that you become anxious for the ending to come so you can see how the story turns out.

    Hang in there with this one and get ready for a finale that will leave you thinking for a while about good and evil; right and wrong .
    Expand
  17. Dec 20, 2011
    5
    The Debt is doesn't works as a thriller film . Its just a drama all about a very little mission that they failed . The Germany part was good . the 1997 part was the worst . Of all the actors I only liked Marton Csokas's acting . Only his acting was good and reasonable .The story isn't that good . The Train part was the best part and that's it . The starting was little off then i expected but the ending is the worst . Just hated it . P.S: There's a moral in this film and that is "Never take a woman on a serious and hard emotional mission" Expand
  18. Sep 3, 2011
    8
    As the trailers tell, the movie is a flashback of a past error corrected in the present . A World War II German Death Dr. from the concentration camps is brought to justice by an Israeli hunting team of three, a woman and two men who have a entwined love-hate relationship among them while bringing the Dr. to justice. Years later their secrets unfold undoing a precious illusion and tension among them. The plot moves quick at the beginning and end and is a bit sluggish in between. The acting strengh is in the woman part, both in the beginning and end played well by both actresses. The hateful Dr. has the right lines and presents a true picture of his unfortunate nature. The period settings are especially well done in East Germany. A well done revenge thriller, with great cinematography, sound acting, and excellent direction with a surprise ending. It is engaging and moral in the end. Collapse
  19. Sep 8, 2011
    10
    It is a fairly long movie but it is full of action and suspension so you never get bored. Great play from the actors and beautiful decorations. Unlike Steven Spielberg's Munich the movie does not try to be judgmental but instead concentrates on the actual meaning of revenge. The movie is definitely not for small kids
  20. Sep 9, 2011
    1
    Overrated movie by critics. It was nothing good watching and I would definetely not recommend going to it. Plot is terrible, acting is so so, and it makes movie lookd bad.
  21. Sep 12, 2011
    6
    Rent-it - Three retired Mossad secret agents find that an anti-Nazi mission accomplished in 1966 might not have been. Secrets and suspense ensue. Continue reading on Examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/movie-in-national/see-it-rent-it-skip-it-top-10-best-movies-theaters-friday-september-9th
  22. Sep 19, 2011
    5
    This movie shined when the female leads, Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren, were on the screen, but fell flat when the male actors were featured. I believe the problems were a combination of dialog, directing, and acting, because it is difficult to pinpoint where things went wrong. There were excellent "scenes" scattered throughout the film, but it missed the mark for becoming excellent. Don't be deceived by the promos showing a film starring "Mirren", because she was on the screen about as much as she was in the trailers. Jessica Chastain was captivating however, and has had a stellar 2011 with the release of 7 films, including a knockout performance as Celia Foote in "The Help". Expand
  23. Sep 17, 2011
    9
    I put up with a disgusting theater and muffled voice track to finish this film. It was excellent. The back and forth in time wasn't confusing. The emotions the actor portrayed really showed through. The story was well told. Very well-done. Excited for the DVD.
  24. Sep 23, 2011
    8
    Great thriller with a different twist. Character development is very unique. The entire show keeps you on the edge of your seat. It has a great conclusion one you won't expect.
  25. Jan 8, 2012
    5
    Exciting and tension filled for the flashback, 1965-66 section. Even though a lot is displayed about what happens through forwards and back in time, I was still into it. Was all set to recommend, but then the ending. Cop out, main character goes through the same thing as before, absolutely no reason for her holier than thou decision. The 1997 section had too many contrivances and logistical missteps.Ii have no problem suspending reality on timings and situations. Heck, it's a movie. But films boil down to the characters. Are they believable, why do they do what they do, what would I do? And Rachel just doesn't ring true. She is willing to jeopardize everything. She wasn't going to tell the truth when the one she loved wanted to. And then, Okshe''ll tell and hurt a lot of people and help no one; except I guess herself (she'll feel better). I liked it a lot in the 60's, a little less as each decade goes by, and the present (90's) just kill it. Too bad because the acting is good, story interesting, it's just poor Rachel, in the end, who sinks it. Expand
  26. Dec 5, 2011
    8
    A well written, acted and directed espionage thriller. Although you see most of what happens in the opening minutes, it still grips you and has you on the edge of your seat.
  27. Dec 15, 2011
    7
    If all movies were crafted as carefully as this, this would be a run-of-the-mill thriller. The story itself isn't that fascinating, but because the film is perfectly put together in a non-sequential order and edited down so every scene serves a purpose to the plot, you can't help but be utterly riveted by the proceedings. This is one of those thrillers that throws you into a state of confusion early on, and then as you piece together the details, it begins to take you in its grip. The performances are also pretty dang good with the two women playing Rachel (different ages) being the standouts. Helen Mirren is great as always, and I can now say I officially love Jessica Chastain. She's debuted her chops to mainstream audiences in 3 films this year including this one, and I've loved her in every one of them. She made an impact on me in "The Tree of Life," she was one of my favorites in "The Help," and here she proves she can stand toe to toe with acting greats like Mirren and Tom Wilkinson. I was reading some snippets of what other people thought about "The Debt," and Tom Long from the "Detroit News" said it best: "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." Those were my thoughts exactly, only written a lot more eloquently. Expand
  28. Nov 29, 2012
    8
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. This was an absolutely fantastic movie. The acting was great, the way the story flowed, while I didn't love it initially, was perfect once the movie unravels, and the plot and character development was superb. It didn't try to overdo it but you felt like you understood the characters ideals and perspectives by the end of the film. Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington do great jobs but Jessica Chastain steals the screen. She's not just gorgeous but she shows the full range in this movie. The movie didn't have anywhere near as much "action" as the previews eluded to but that was both a weakness and a kind of strength of the film so that's not entirely why I knocked the rating down. The main thing I wasn't a fan of was the ending. It felt like the entire film was building to something and then it completely spins in a different direction and that was awesome. However, they didn't seem to finish that direction well and some of the decisions made by Mirren's character in the end seem a bit suspect. Nonetheless, this is a great movie and while everyone certainly won't enjoy it, I think those that can appreciate it will. Expand
  29. Jan 20, 2012
    7
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Lacks decantation. I found The Debt to be a good movie with a huge potential, which was not fully used. Despite having good story, an interesting, flashback-based storytelling, some good spy action, and -- last but not least -- some good -- alas, not epically memorable -- scenes of psychological confrontation of the Nazi criminal with the Mossad agents, The Debt has some flaws, such as a bit floppy romance story and the lack of historical background when presenting Dietrich Vogel, which at some point make of this movie more of a chase after an older man with than a chase after a terrible war criminal. In other words, The Debt is a raw gem that could have been polished more. Expand
  30. Jan 7, 2012
    10
    Excellent...across the board. Intense and complex ... well executed, superb acting. Not sure if those who gave this a lower rating watched the same movie. It's a 10...hands down.
  31. Jan 15, 2012
    8
    This was a good movie and was certainly a "nail biter" on many levels. The actors were first rate but the twists and turns in the plot made it hard to follow. I am also not totally sure where the title comes from...I guess I will figure that out some day.... The scene at the railroad station was harrowing and could have been in any **** flick. One reviewer suggested that the narrative could have done in parallel with the 60s played against the 90s. Also, I think a reference to the capture and trial of Eichmann would have lent some historic credibility and grounding to the movie... All that being said, it was a fascinating one to watch... Expand
  32. Feb 7, 2012
    6
    A decent enough movie with a good strong cast of characters, Jessica Chastain performs well with a strong character, the movie is good but slows down too often and doesn't develop the characters well enough, a couple of actions scenes make the movie worth watching with a good fight at the start and an entertaining climax featuring Helen Mirren, unfortunately the film lacks any real ending that can make you feel satisfied, and the characters all somehow manage to disappoint, the performances that are perhaps the strongest displayed are Chastain's younger portrayal of Helen Mirren's Rachel Singer. And Jesper Christensen's portrayal of the antagonist Dieter Vogel. Not the best film ever made, but not the worst. Forgettable but also a good role for Chastain. Expand
  33. Apr 13, 2013
    5
    "The Lie" would've been a more appropriate title. It's a decent enough film but doesn't raise the bar in any area. I'm not a fan of temporal-settings (ie, jumping from settings in the past and present) because it does more to upset the viewer than to tell a coherent story. And sorry, but the fight between two ancients at the end was comically reminiscent of the "Family Guy" episode where Mr Herbert fights the old nazi that lives next door. Expand
  34. Mar 13, 2012
    3
    An average plot that ends with the usual good vs bad, with good conscious prevailing. The acting should be better with who they've cast however its hard not to notice the distinct Australian accent in Sam Worthington's Younger David, who is supposed to be Jewish. Not to mention he looks nothing like Ciarán Hinds who plays Older David. David as a character was selfish and emotionally convoluted and actually cheapens the impact of the film. The pace of the movie was to slow to get to its interesting point showing unoriginal subpar directing. The action filled scenes won't put you to sleep but they aren't great either. Rent or download, not worth the price of a cinema ticket. Expand
  35. Nov 28, 2012
    8
    Smart, quiet, and provocative, "The Debt" proves to be a successful thriller of the more subtle kind.
  36. 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 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.
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: 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.
  2. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Sep 7, 2011
    83
    Christensen plays him with Lecter-like intensity; the unsettling calmness of someone capable of anything.
  3. 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.