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THE DEBTHelen Mirren seems to be in a new phase of her career. The English actress, best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of her majesty in The Queen and for recently taking top honors in the L.A. Fitness body of the year poll at age 66 is now also an action star. In “Reds” she was an ex-CIA agent alongside Bruce Willis, wearing pearls and shooting AK47s and this weekend she’s an ex-Mossad agent with a secret.

When the movie opens it is 1997. Retired Mossad agents Rachel, David and Stefan (Helen Mirren, Ciarán Hinds and Tom Wilkinson) are heroes, acclaimed for their brave capture and execution of a notorious war criminal in 1966. But when new information about the case turns up, it threatens to expose a long held secret. Cut to an extended flashback sequence detailing the real details of the operation (with Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington as the younger versions of the trio), including the romantic entanglement that complicated the mission. Back in 1997 Rachel comes out of retirement to uncover the truth and repay an emotional debt.

The flashback sequence makes up the bulk of the film so it’s fair to say this isn’t Helen Mirren’s film, but her character Rachel’s.  Dame Helen and Chastain (in her third film this year) provide the movie’s emotional core. Unusual for an espionage movie, the story is told through the eyes of a woman. Rachel is as tough as the men, but adds depth to what is essentially a pulpy spy story with a twist.

Performances are top notch (although some dodgy accents appear) but Sam Worthington, last year’s it boy, underwhelms. Luckily Mirren, Chastain and the film’s powerful sense of suspense pick up the slack.

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