The espionage thriller begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel (Helen Mirren) and Stefan (Tom Wilkinson) about their former colleague David (Ciarán Hinds). All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of the mission that they undertook back in 1965, when the trio (portrayed, respectively, by Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas, and Sam Worthington) tracked down Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen) in East Berlin. At great risk, and at considerable personal cost, the team's mission was accomplished - or was it? The suspense builds in and across two different time periods, with startling action and surprising revelations. Written by
At last, a movie that is as intelligent as it is entertaining
This espionage thriller is an English-language version of a 2007 Israeli film "Ha-Hov" and it is immediately apparent why an adaptation that will inevitably win a much larger audience was made. This is a gripping tale, intelligently told and cleverly constructed. It is much more exiting than the other spy movie of the summer of 2011 "Tinker Tailor Solider Spy" and a much more authentic representation of the Israeli secret service Mossad than "Munich".
Essentially we have two stories here, set in different times (1965 and 1997) and different locations (Berlin and Israel/Ukraine) but involving the same characters; yet director John Madden - whose first success was the contrasting "Shakespeare In Love" - has done a skillful job in interweaving the two narratives in a manner which requires the viewer to re-evaluate regularly both situations and motivations. The early period works better than the later one and fortunately it accounts for the majority of the film, but this is almost two hours of sustained tension.
Unusually there are seven strong roles in one film. The three Mossad agents Stephan, David and Rachel are played by Marton Csokas, Sam Worthington and Jessica Chastain respectively in the Cold War period and portrayed by Tom Wilkinson, Ciarán Hinds and Helen Mirren respectively in the modern day setting, while the Danish Jesper Christensen is the surgeon of Birkenau throughout the story and gives this profoundly unsympathetic role a subtle psychological dimension.
Although most of these roles are male, it is the two female performances that are especially memorable. Mirren has had a brilliant career and it is wonderful to see her at the top of her game in her sixties, while Chastain seems to have suddenly burst into movies with "The Tree Of Live" and clearly has a major career ahead of her.
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