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'The Debt' review: Well, it's better than "Red"

**1/2 (out of four)
 
Sure, in 1997 Rachel (Helen Mirren) celebrates the release of her daughter’s book about when Rachel and other Israeli agents took down a Nazi war criminal. However, let’s go to some 30-year-old flashbacks in Berlin (when Rachel is played by the excellent Jessica Chastain and her colleagues are Sam Worthington and Martin Csokas) to see if everything in the book checks out. History has a way of editing out certain facts, or so we’ve heard.
 
The buzz: Good to see 66-year-old Mirren keeping busy; this is her second release in five days (after “Brighton Rock”). Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) may not be an obvious choice for a political thriller (remade from a 2007 Israeli film), but a greater concern is that starring in the biggest movie ever wasn’t enough to make a household name of Worthington (“Avatar,” “Terminator Salvation”), probably because he’s yet to deliver a true movie star performance.
 
The verdict: Well-crafted and tense but just not believable. That’s on the shoulders of a forced love triangle and a far-fetched ending that confuses the need to tell the truth for others’ sake with the act of covering your own ass and clearing your conscience. Worthington remains a blank slate, though even he can’t diffuse an exhilarating sequence in which the agents can, at one point, only operate for 14 seconds at a time (due to enemy surveillance) before having to stop. That’s your cue to giggle.
 
Did you know? To get close to their target, Rachel must pretend to be a patient as he works as, of all things, a gynecologist. That’s what you call commitment to an investigation.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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