Inside Pulse » Helen Mirren http://insidepulse.com A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:25:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » Helen Mirren http://insidepulse.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://insidepulse.com Blu-ray Review: Prime Suspect (The Complete Collection) http://insidepulse.com/2013/09/05/blu-ray-review-prime-suspect-the-complete-collection/ http://insidepulse.com/2013/09/05/blu-ray-review-prime-suspect-the-complete-collection/#comments Thu, 05 Sep 2013 22:00:50 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=338321 Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection is the gold standard of British police action.]]> Prime Suspect is the greatest TV show about a police woman. The rise of DCI Jane Tennison (Helen Mirren) starts in 1991 and wraps up in 2006 with her retirement in the seventh miniseries. Her life at the top is completely explored over this time. This isn’t the standard police procedural as she must deal with the office politics of male cops threatened by her position in the force. They seem more dangerous than the murders roaming England. The cases she tackles are complex and often expose more than just the killers in the course of her investigation. While she’s a no nonsense tough cop on the job, she does have her private breakdown moments. However she won’t let her emotions override her ability to be an respected Detective Chief Inspector. Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection brings together all the episodes in prime shape.

Prime Suspect elevates Tennison to the position of lead investigator on a series of grotesque murders. She lands the gig when the superior drops dead of a heart attack. There’s a lot of co-workers upset that she received the battlefield promotion. They do their best to make her look like the worst choice so they can save the day. She is having none of it. They can’t stand that she cares about the details of the case and doesn’t just sit back and wait for briefings. How dare she prove ready to step up and not merely be a figurehead. Prime Suspect 2 deals with race relations. When a murdered body turns up in a minority neighborhood, Tennison must tread carefully. There’s a lot tension. She doesn’t have any race hang ups since her latest lover is a black police officer. This however might displease her superiors so they do their best to keep the relationship undercover.

Prime Suspect 3 transfers Tennison to the vice squad. She can’t get a simple case of drug dealers in the park. She gets assigned to a young male prostitute that was killed and set on fire. Things get extremely complicated as she delves into an underworld of young hustlers and drag queens. There’s a lot of talk about blackmail, but who are the targets? Her leads point back to social workers that might have been pimps and cops that enjoyed using the boys. There’s a lot of people wanting her pin this on one person and quit digging. Can she back off if given the proper request? Ciarán Hinds (HBO’s Rome) is the suspicious social worker who might not be properly helping the boys get off the street. David Thewlis (Harry Potter films) is the street hustler pimping the boys. There’s an amazing cast of young actors who would eventually get larger roles. James Frain (The Tudors and The White Queen) plays a less than royal character. Jonny Lee Miller (TV’s Elementary) provides useful testimony. The big surprise is a glimpse of the upcoming Dr. Who (Peter Capaldi). Prime Suspect 4 is unique with three cases that each lasted 102 minute. The Lost Child deals with a dead child. The main suspect is a convicted child molester who has been living with a mother and her children. They are clueless about his past. His only chance for not being busted is that the child doesn’t match his previous victims. Is he innocent of just swapping up? Inner Circles spirals out of control when the murder of country club turns into a potential political scandal. A lot of people are pulling on her investigation. The Scent of Darkness presents gruesome murders that resemble the killings from the first series. Tennison worries that she busted the wrong guy.

Prime Suspect 5 takes Tennison up to Manchester. She must connect the murder of a drug dealer to a gangster character that goes by “The Street.” Even though he’s been a suspect on several homicides, there’s been no way to shut him down. Can she finally get the guy busted? Prime Suspect: The Last Witness revives the show after Mirren had taken seven years away from playing Tennison. Bosnian immigrant is found dead on a construction site. The suspect is a Serbian who might have fought the dead guy during the war in Yugoslavia. Tennison needs to see if her man is a war criminal as well as a homicidal maniac. There’s a lot of pressure on Tennison to retire from the force. Tom Hooper directed this episode. More recently he won the Best Directing Oscar for The King’s Speech. Prime Suspect: The Final Act turns Tennison into a mess. The police life has finally taken a toll on her. She’s a drunk and getting sloppy about it. She needs to clean herself up as her retirement approaches. Before she leaves, she has one last case involving the murder of a young girl. She doesn’t want to quit until she catches the killer. It’s a fitting end mystery for her.

Helen Mirren is perfection as DCI Jane Tennison. She’s given a character and plenty of screen time to give an amazingly deep performance. Nothing seems false when she’s on the screen. She makes this series seem as real as Cops with her reactions. Even with all her award winning roles, Mirren delivers a career defining performance as she portrays Tennison from her big break to her final investigation.

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The first five seasons were originally shown at 1.33:1 when it ran on PBS. This cropping might upset aspect purists. But nothing vital appears to be snipped from the frame. The series was shot on 35mm so the high definition transfers look sharp. The Lost Child is presented in its 1.33:1 aspect ratio. It’s a bit more grainy than the rest of the episodes. The audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. The mix isn’t overpowering. The episodes are subtitled.

Behind-The-Scenes Special (50 minutes) covers the entire run of the show. There’s plenty of remembering what it took to create such an iconic character and intricate mysteries.

Series 6 Behind the Scenes Featurette
(23 minutes) deals with Mirren coming back to the character after a few years off.

Photo Gallery covers the entire run.

Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection is the gold standard of British police action. Helen Mirren’s DCI Tennison is one of the greatest serious cop characters in TV history. This is a show that needs to be experienced on Blu-ray so you can appreciate her performance with the extra resolution.

Acorn Media presents Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection. Starring: Helen Mirren, Jonny Lee Miller Peter Capaldi. Boxset contents: 7 Seasons on 7 Blu-rays. Released: August 27, 2013.

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Red 2 – Review http://insidepulse.com/2013/07/22/red-2-review/ http://insidepulse.com/2013/07/22/red-2-review/#comments Mon, 22 Jul 2013 06:00:42 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=336150
Perfunctory sequel, nothing more

It’s interesting that Bruce Willis has played big parts in two action movie franchises that have emphasized his age as of late, The Expendables and Red. While his resurrection of the Die Hard franchise have portrayed him as a timeless hero, Red has emphasized that he’s older with veteran knowhow as opposed to reveling in nostalgia, which is what the Stallone helmed franchise has done. Red 2 has been more about crafting an action hero persona for Willis that plays into his real life as an aging action star who hasn’t transitioned into any other genre with as much success as he has with action.

Willis is back as Frank Moses, a retired CIA operative trying to enjoy suburban life. His better half (Mary-Louise Parker), a civilian who experienced the events of the last film, has fallen in love with the lifestyle she’s perceived of Frank as a super spook. It makes for an interesting dilemma as Frank is coaxed back into action by his best friend (John Malkovich) as the trio have to find a weapon of mass destruction from their past. Throw in a former flame of Frank’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones), an old friend (Helen Mirren) and a scientist (Anthony Hopkins) who’s lost his mind and a CIA operative (Neal McDonough) hot on their trail and you have the makings of a fairly good film.

Unfortunately Red 2 has nothing new to offer that the original film hadn’t already covered. It’s just missing Morgan Freeman to bring some grounding to it.

There’s nothing new we haven’t seen in Red 2 that wasn’t already covered in Red, other than some domestic squabbles between Frank and Sarah. Marvin (Malkovich) is still paranoid and crazy, et al, and this is sequel that doesn’t do anything to bring anything new to the equation. This is just an action sequel for the sake of one, existing because the first one made money and nothing more.

Red 2 is about on par with the first film in that it’s a breezy action film that emphasizes the “fun” factor more than anything else. It’s a lazy film; it knows that expectations are low enough that things like internal consistency of story-telling or even explaining some story-line cheats (especially in the end) would be enough to make it good. As it is it’s disposable, nothing more.

Director: Dean Parisot
Writer: Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber based off characters created in the comic book “Red”
Notable Cast:
Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, Byung-hun Lee, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Neal McDonough

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Al Pacino Dons More Goofy Hairpieces Than Nicolas Cage In Six Films For Phil Spector http://insidepulse.com/2013/02/11/al-pacino-dons-more-goofy-hairpieces-than-nicolas-cage-in-six-films-for-phil-spector/ http://insidepulse.com/2013/02/11/al-pacino-dons-more-goofy-hairpieces-than-nicolas-cage-in-six-films-for-phil-spector/#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2013 17:00:07 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=325277 The first trailer for HBO Films Phil Spector has been released. You can view it below.


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Bruce Willis Gets His Action Sequel On Some More In First Red 2 Trailer http://insidepulse.com/2013/01/21/bruce-willis-gets-his-action-sequel-on-some-more-in-first-red-2-trailer/ http://insidepulse.com/2013/01/21/bruce-willis-gets-his-action-sequel-on-some-more-in-first-red-2-trailer/#comments Mon, 21 Jan 2013 09:00:02 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=323525 With the latest Die Hard sequel about to hit theaters this quarter, a new sequel to Red is on the horizon as well.

Plot Summary: In “RED 2,” the high-octane action-comedy sequel to the worldwide sleeper hit, retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses reunites his unlikely team of elite operatives for a global quest to track down a missing portable nuclear device. To succeed, they’ll need to survive an army of relentless assassins, ruthless terrorists and power-crazed government officials, all eager to get their hands on the next-generation weapon. The mission takes Frank and his motley crew to Paris, London and Moscow. Outgunned and outmanned, they have only their cunning wits, their old-school skills, and each other to rely on as they try to save the world-and stay alive in the process.

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Nominations For the 70th Annual Golden Globes – Movies http://insidepulse.com/2012/12/13/nominations-for-the-70th-annual-golden-globes-movies/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/12/13/nominations-for-the-70th-annual-golden-globes-movies/#comments Thu, 13 Dec 2012 15:19:08 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=320054 The nominations for the 2013 Golden Globe Awards were announced this morning at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Checking my own predictions to the nominees that were revealed I finished with getting two-thirds of them right. Though some of the nominees were oversights on my part. (How could I leave John Hawkes off the list – stupid me!) I didn’t count on the Hollywood Foreign Press embracing the likes of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and recognizing the writing and directing acumen of Quentin Tarantino.

The 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards will air live on NBC on Sunday, January 13, and will be hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.

BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
ARGO
Warner Bros. Pictures, GK Films, Smokehouse Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures
DJANGO UNCHAINED
The Weinstein Company, Columbia Pictures; The Weinstein Company/Sony Pictures Releasing
LIFE OF PI
Fox 2000 Pictures; Twentieth Century Fox
LINCOLN
DreamWorks Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox; Touchstone Pictures
ZERO DARK THIRTY
Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures; Sony Pictures Releasing

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
JESSICA CHASTAIN, ZERO DARK THIRTY
MARION COTILLARD, RUST AND BONE
HELEN MIRREN, HITCHCOCK
NAOMI WATTS, THE IMPOSSIBLE
RACHEL WEISZ, THE DEEP BLUE SEA

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
DANIEL DAY-LEWIS, LINCOLN
RICHARD GERE, ARBITRAGE
JOHN HAWKES, THE SESSIONS
JOAQUIN PHOENIX, THE MASTER
DENZEL WASHINGTON, FLIGHT

BEST MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
Blueprint Pictures/Participant Media; Fox Searchlight Pictures
LES MISERABLES
Universal Pictures, A Working Title Films/Cameron Mackintosh Productions; Universal Pictures
MOONRISE KINGDOM
Indian Paintbrush; Focus Features
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
CBS Films; CBS Films
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
The Weinstein Company; The Weinstein Company

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
EMILY BLUNT, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
JUDI DENCH, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
JENNIFER LAWRENCE, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
MAGGIE SMITH, QUARTET
MERYL STREEP, HOPE SPRINGS

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
JACK BLACK, BERNIE
BRADLEY COOPER, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
HUGH JACKMAN, LES MISERABLES
EWAN MCGREGOR, SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN
BILL MURRAY, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
BRAVE
Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures
FRANKENWEENIE
Walt Disney Pictures; Walt Disney Pictures
HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA
Columbia Pictures / Sony Pictures Animation; Sony Pictures Releasing
RISE OF THE GUARDIANS
DreamWorks Animation LLC; Paramount Pictures
WRECK-IT RALPH
Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
AMOUR (AUSTRIA)
Les Films Du Losange, X Filme Creative Pool, Wega Film; Sony Pictures Classics
A ROYAL AFFAIR (DENMARK) (En kongelig affære)
Zentropa Entertainment; Magnolia Pictures
THE INTOUCHABLES (FRANCE) (Les Intouchables)
The Weinsten Company, Quad Productions, Gaumont, TF1 Films Production, Ten Films, Chaocorp; The Weinstein Company
KON-TIKI (NORWAY/UK/DENMARK)
Nordisk Film Production, Recorded Picture Company
RUST AND BONE (FRANCE) (De rouille et d’os)
Page 114, Why Not Productions; Sony Pictures Classics

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
AMY ADAMS, THE MASTER
SALLY FIELD, LINCOLN
ANNE HATHAWAY, LES MISERABLES
HELEN HUNT, THE SESSIONS
NICOLE KIDMAN, THE PAPERBOY

BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
ALAN ARKIN, ARGO
LEONARDO DICAPRIO, DJANGO UNCHAINED
PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, THE MASTER
TOMMY LEE JONES, LINCOLN
CHRISTOPH WALTZ, DJANGO UNCHAINED

BEST DIRECTOR – MOTION PICTURE
BEN AFFLECK, ARGO
KATHRYN BIGELOW, ZERO DARK THIRTY
ANG LEE, LIFE OF PI
STEVEN SPIELBERG, LINCOLN
QUENTIN TARANTINO, DJANGO UNCHAINED

BEST SCREENPLAY – MOTION PICTURE
MARK BOAL, ZERO DARK THIRTY
TONY KUSHNER, LINCOLN
DAVID O. RUSSELL, SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
QUENTIN TARANTINO, DJANGO UNCHAINED
CHRIS TERRIO, ARGO

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – MOTION PICTURE
MYCHAEL DANNA, LIFE OF PI
ALEXANDRE DESPLAT, ARGO
DARIO MARIANELLI, ANNA KARENINA
TOM TYKWER, CLOUD ATLAS
JOHNNY KLIMEK, REINHOLD HEIL
JOHN WILLIAMS, LINCOLN

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – MOTION PICTURE
FOR YOU, ACT OF VALOR
Music by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban Lyrics by: Monty Powell, Keith Urban
NOT RUNNING ANYMORE, STAND UP GUYS
Music by: Jon Bon Jovi Lyrics by: Jon Bon Jovi
SAFE & SOUND, THE HUNGER GAMES
Music by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett Lyrics by: Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams, T Bone Burnett
SKYFALL, SKYFALL
Music by: Adele, Paul Epworth Lyrics by: Adele, Paul Epworth
SUDDENLY, LES MISERABLES
Music by: Claude-Michel Schonberg Lyrics by: Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg
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Just Seen It Movie Review: Hitchcock [Video] http://insidepulse.com/2012/11/21/just-seen-it-movie-review-hitchcock-video/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/11/21/just-seen-it-movie-review-hitchcock-video/#comments Wed, 21 Nov 2012 20:08:49 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=318645 Alfred Hitchcock is the world's most famous director. But when he chooses the controversial Psycho as his next movie, no one will support it. Risking everything, he and his wife Alma fight to get it made. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren and Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Sacha Gervasi. Written By John J. McLaughlin (screenplay), Stephen Rebello (book). Produced by Sacha Gervasi, Joe Medjuck, Tom Pollock, Ivan Reitman and Tom Thayer. Genre: Biography Drama. Liz, Brenna and Salim review this fascinating behind-the-scenes story of Hitch and the making of Psycho. Starring Liz Manashil, Salim Lemelle and Brenna Smith. Directed by Cooper Griggs. Edited by Jeff Rogers. Sound Design by Aaron Fink and Nick Isaacs. Produced by David Freedman(@ShowRunnerDave), Cooper Griggs, Aaron Fink(@AaronEvanFink) and Pedro Raposo. Watch us every Saturday at 6PM Pacific on PBS OC or at pbssocal.org/justseenit!



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New International Trailer For Hitchcock Released http://insidepulse.com/2012/11/12/new-international-trailer-for-hitchcock-released/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/11/12/new-international-trailer-for-hitchcock-released/#comments Mon, 12 Nov 2012 12:00:25 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=317515 The latest trailer for Hitchcock has been released. You can view it below.


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Red 2 Debut Poster Revealed, Release Date Hinted http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/23/red-2-debut-poster-revealed-release-date-hinted/ http://insidepulse.com/2012/08/23/red-2-debut-poster-revealed-release-date-hinted/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2012 08:00:52 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=309803 The first poster for Red 2 has been released; you can view it below.


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DVD Review: Prime Suspect (Series 1 & Series 2) http://insidepulse.com/2011/09/08/dvd-review-prime-suspect-series-1-series-2/ http://insidepulse.com/2011/09/08/dvd-review-prime-suspect-series-1-series-2/#comments Thu, 08 Sep 2011 15:00:50 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=263088 Prime Suspect allows Helen Mirren to not merely play a cop, but to give more than procedural tasks. ]]> Helen Mirren had been a movie actress for nearly 25 years, but she really hadn’t made a dent with American audiences. She was a favorite of the cult crowd with her work in Caligula, O Lucky Man, Excalibur and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover. But she lacked that break through role until she became a PBS superstar. Prime Suspect wasn’t the usual procedural cop shows. Each series consisted of two episodes that lasted nearly four hours. This allowed the show to unfold like a really long movie and not episodic TV. This allowed Mirren to develop a character on screen rather than fit inside a weekly formula. DCI Jane Tennison is a complicated woman as she proves her worth to the force. Prime Suspect: Series 1 and Prime Suspect: Series 2 have been released as solo discs for fans who missed seeing the series on PBS’s Masterpiece Theater.

Prime Suspect: Series 1 focuses on a woman that’s been raped and murdered. While the male detectives are scouring the scene, Tennison is stuck in her office. Even though she has a Detective Chief Inspector title, nobody in the office wants her to lead a case. She’s there for show. In the early stages of the case, the lead detective drops dead. Tennison sees this as her big break and grabs the position. The male detectives are doing their least to help her. But she refuses to let herself fail. She needs to find out if this is a solo killing or the work of a serial killer. If she doesn’t nail her suspect, this will be the end of her brilliant career. Mirren gets underneath the character to expose the fear she has during the case and her ability to mask it. Tom Wilkinson plays Mirren’s lover.

Prime Suspect: Series 2 switches from issues of gender to race and sex. The remains of a murder victim are found in a neighborhood that caters to Caribbean immigrants. They’re not happy at having white policemen sniffing around looking for suspects. A black detective (Colin Salmon from Keen Eddie) transfers onto the squad to help things out. His arrival brings on interesting troubles since he has a history with Tennison. Will her private life get dragged into this public case? After being accepted by her detective peers, she fears this investigations is their attempt to give her the boot.

Prime Suspect allows Mirren to not merely play a cop, but to give more than procedural tasks. She gets to create a deep character in Tennison so when she has to go in ice-cold cop mode, the rigidness shows. She lets us feel the tension that must be created to maintain a professional face. She knows that anything that makes her human will be used against her by anyone jealous of her position. Prime Suspect isn’t merely about police work, but the people who have to be the police. The first two installments of Prime Suspect are better than any cop movies that Mirren could have made for the cinema. Mirren’s career took an Oscar winning high profile after her work as DCI Tennison.

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The show appears to have been shot on 16mm with a grainy texture. This works well for the show by not giving it a slick look. The rawness lets us think Mirren is going to lose it at various times. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. The rawness of the film comes over to the audio. They keep the mix rather simple so it’s about the investigation and not turning this into Miami Vice.. Each series is subtitled in can’t figure out the various English accents.


No bonus features.


Prime Suspect: Series 1 and Prime Suspect: Series 2 set off Helen Mirren’s landmark police series. She inhabits the role of DCI Jane Tennison instead of merely playing a cop. Prime Suspect is perfect for those who enjoy emotionally complicated police shows instead of merely guessing whodunit before the detective.


Acorn Media presents Prime Suspect: Series 1 and Prime Suspect: Series 2. Starring: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkerson and Colin Salmon . Running time: Series 1 is 207 minutes. Series 2 is 204 minutes. Released on DVD: August 23, 2011. Prime Suspect: Series 1 and Series 2 are available at Amazon.com..
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The Debt – Review http://insidepulse.com/2011/09/05/the-debt-review/ http://insidepulse.com/2011/09/05/the-debt-review/#comments Mon, 05 Sep 2011 16:00:23 +0000 http://insidepulse.com/?p=264401
A strong, albeit stripped-down, Cold War thriller

The Debt is not a complex spy thriller. It doesn’t have a plot that leaves the audience dangling on every twist (okay, maybe just one) or turn. What it does offer is a tale of espionage anchored by one female character, though played by two different actresses.

Based on the 2007 Israeli film Ha-Hov, the story revolves around events in 1966 and 1997. The Debt opens in the present and we are transported back to the past as Helen Mirren reads a written account of her time as a Mossad agent. A key incident of a prisoner making his escape is shown. Later in the film an alternative version of the incident is shown with one crucial difference. But only one of the versions is the truth. It is this misdirection that strengthens the plot when the twist finally occurs.

In the mid-‘60s, three Mossad agents are stationed in East Berlin for a secret mission. The mission involves capturing Nazi war criminal Bernhardt (Jesper Christensen), the “Butcher of Birkenau,” and transporting him to Israel for public trial. Stephan (Marton Csokas) is the team leader, while David (Sam Worthington) and Rachel (Jessica Chastain) make up the other two members of the unit. Of course the mission doesn’t go according to plan, leaving the three to improvise a solution. Close to thirty years later, these three would reunite again, but the means is by no means amicable. Stephen (now Tom Wilkinson) has no intentions of having a thirty-year secret revealed; David (now Ciaran Hinds) has thirty years of guilt he wants to excise; and Rachel (now Helen Mirren) may become a field operative once again.

Roughly two-thirds of The Debt transpires in Cold War East Berlin, and it during this time where John Madden’s film is the most engrossing. Not to take anything from the other third, set in 1997, but the mounting pressure of the situation is less urgent. The capture of the Butcher and subsequent failed attempt to transport him out of country are well staged, but it is the scenes in the safe house with the Butcher held captive that are the most exciting. The way Jesper Christensen, who played middleman for the terrorist organization Quantum in both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, is able to break down his captors, specifically Rachel, pensively is similar to Dr. Hannibal Lecter probing Agent Starling about her upbringing. The scenes between Bernhardt and Rachel crackle with tension, as the Butcher shows that he is the one in control – able to get to them psychologically – not the three Mossad agents.

Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Tom Wilkinson may be the marketable faces of this Cold War thriller but audiences will most likely be talking about the actress who plays young Rachel, Jessica Chastain. Once again, Chastain delivers another strong performance. She may wind up being this year’s Jude Law in the sheer number of new releases – this is the third of six movies for Chastain this year – but each of her performances have been superb thus far. The hot-and-cold chemistry she has with Marton Csokas and Sam Worthington adds to the relationship dynamic, and it carries over in situations after the mission.

Matthew Vaughn and his writing collaborator Jane Goldman, who earlier in the summer had the Cold War-set film X-Men: First Class, penned the adaptation, to which Peter Straughan also contributed. Interesting to note is that Straughan also wrote this year’s cinematic adaptation to John Le Carre’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, another tale of espionage set during the Cold War.

The appeal of The Debt lies in its rich atmosphere and suspense. It’s not exactly the energetic thriller the ads make it out to be; the film’s edge-of-your-seat thrills are reserved to but a few sequences. The Debt is more about the intrigue that carries over from one fateful decision, and its overriding affect on the relationships between our three main characters. Also, heroism and holding on to that acclaim is an underlying theme that offers a nice discussion topic once the movie concludes.

As far as the film’s shortcomings, it resides with the large gap of time. Had the thirty years been shortened to ten or fifteen years a greater consistency would have existed. As it is, The Debt is just a good thriller, and not a great one. Still, for older audiences it is a worthwhile watch, because good entertainment for grownups is short supply right now.


Director: John Madden
Notable Cast: Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, Sam Worthington, Jesper Christensen
Writer(s): Matthew Vaughn & Jane Goldman and Peter Straughan, based on the film Ha-Hov by Assaf Bernstein & Ido Rosenblum

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