The 2011 version of The Debt, starring Helen Mirren, is a remake of the 2007 Israeli thriller, Ha-Hov, which screens for two nights only at Chalmette Movies.
It's a fictional thriller that draws suspense from both parallel covert-operation stories performed 30 years apart and difficult moral quandaries about truth and justice. In 1965, a trio of Mossad agents attempt to capture a Nazi war criminal known as the Surgeon of Birkenau, who was notorious for performing sadistic experiments on Jews in concentration camps. It's particularly creepy that he is working as a gynecologist in East Berlin, and Rachel Berner has to get close to him for the operation to succeed. They are supposed to bring him to Israel for trial, but they report him dead and become heroes.
In 1997, an elderly man in the Soviet Union claims he is the Surgeon of Birkenau. The three agents reconvene and it's obvious their whole story has never been told, a morally embarrassing situation since Berner has written a best-selling book based on her account of events and is a hero to Holocaust survivors. The film intersperses scenes of the earlier mission with Berner's attempt to find the elderly man. It is a complicated mission, because killing the man acknowledges the original story was false. And after three decades as a hero, she isn't working for the government, so is she pursuing justice or an assassination that covers the agents' tracks?
Watching the original mission with its sneering Nazi and finding out what really happened is as gripping as Berner's later attempt to rectify matters. It's a mind-wracking attempt to see if two wrongs can be made into a right.
The film is in Hebrew and German with English subtitles. Presented by Chalmette Movies and the New Orleans Film Society. Tickets $8.50, $6.50 Film Society members. — Will Coviello
The Debt (Ha-Hov)
7:30 p.m. Mon.-Tue.
Chalmette Movies, 8700 W. Judge Perez Dr., 304-9992; www.chalmettemovies.com