I have to say that I’m a little bit disappointed with The Debt in that what should be an engaging and suspenseful drama about a highly trained Mossad unit working in East Berlin in 1965 to capture The Surgeon of Birkenau and send him back to Israel for him to stand trial for Nazi war crimes, is in fact about a bumbling trio of clowns who not only muck up the entire operation, but end up in a dodgy menage-a-trois that ruins multiple lives in the process.
However, this tale of bungling agents is not the fault of writers Goldman/Vaughn/Straughn, since the film is essentially a remake of the Israeli film, HaHov. Where I really find fault is in the character of Rachel Singer. As the only female member of the Mossad unit, she is used to penetrate the offices of Doctor Vogel (their target) who is now a practising gynaecologist. All the while she’s conducting liaisons with BOTH male members of the unit (and eventually ends up marrying and having a child by the leader, Stefan, and who she later divorces from.)
Whereas I was hoping Rachel would be a professional, she’s clearly far too vulnerable. Sure – she can kick arse. She does the whole Emma Peel thing very well and kicks and punches her way through situations while wearing fashionable stretch pants. But emotionally she jeopardises the entire mission by (a) being affected by Vogel who, during the gynaecological sessions with her, starts to stir up feelings of hatred for everything he’s done to the Jews under the Nazi regime during their “small” talks, and (b) having sexually charged incidents with both men in their unit which seriously compromises the mission (given that they are in hiding in a small apartment for most of the time and are under each other’s feet) and subsequently has a rather nasty emotional toll on everybody. Especially when things start to go wrong.
The very fact she eventually marries Stefan and produces a daughter with him who goes on to write a book based on her parents exploits (which, BTW, are complete lies – so both parents are complicit in covering up their bungled mission) is at best irresponsible. Why would Mossad have chosen her for this mission is completely beyond me. They must have seen weaknesses during her initial training or in previous missions. Why would this mission be the exception? I don’t believe Rachel is good Mossad material if she is still so emotionally affected by what the Nazis did to her family.
In short: Rachel, as a character, makes me very angry.
As for Vogel spending the rest of days in a Ukrainian hospital in the 1990s is relatively plausible. He probably blabbed to his roommate as to who he was to throw any investigating journalists off the scent, but when Rachel spots him – Vogel being so old as to try and attack Rachel is odd – why risk it? He could have ended his life earlier if he had a death wish. Even if the truth came out, would anybody believe it?
So there is a certain amount of logic to the film that doesn’t add up. Again, I say this isn’t entirely at the feet of the scriptwriters rather than being a hangover from the film from which it originates (although certain weaknesses and flaws should have been fixed in this version where possible).