Anyone who has read much John le Carré is probably well acquainted with George Smiley, the quintessential British spy character of the Cold War era (no, it’s not James Bond). In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which is the first book in the Karla trilogy (released later as the omnibus The Quest for Karla), Smiley is tasked with eradicating a KGB mole who has infiltrated the sanctum of SIS (British Intelligence). In the film, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson paints a picture as raw and uncompromising as the 1974 novel and more engrossing than the 1979 BBC miniseries with Gary Oldman turning in an Oscar worthy performance as the MI6 veteran.
Oftentimes when thrillers attempt to weave the realism of a historically relevant era into their plot, they get wrapped up in the mechanics of what the characters are doing instead of the characters themselves. The Debt, John Madden’s re-imagining of the 2007 Israeli thriller Ha-Hov, does precisely the opposite. Communicating its intentions through emotional complexities, raw tension and the organic feel of its environment, The Debt accomplishes something a little different – it allows us to sympathize with the spies.