There are a couple of things that are
confusing about this film. One is
that it keeps jumping back and forth between past and present, sometimes
almost seamlessly. The other is they
decided to cast different actors to be the 30-ish versions of the 60-ish
characters. And they didn’t try
that hard to make the “younger versions” look like their older
counterparts, they just depended on the viewer to keep it all straight and
figure that people change so much in 30 years as to become unrecognizable.
Well, those of us who have
participated in high school reunions know that that is not quite true.
What we fear, of course, is becoming caricatures of ourselves, but
that does not necessarily mean we would be unidentifiable as the same
person. I suppose that this was
easier in the filming, though, than to try to make 60-something people look
30-something, with backlighting or dim lighting or heavy make-up or
whatever. It’s just a little
disconcerting to watch, because there’s also no attempt to fill in the
transition period of anything that happened in the intervening intervals.
We’re in 1967 or we’re in 1997. No
The plot involves a group of three
young Mossad agents, in the mid-1960’s, given the assignment to track down
a former Nazi war criminal, a brutal physician who callously performed human
experiments, even on children, now living quietly as a practicing ob-gyn in
East Berlin. The plan was to kidnap him and bring him back to
to be publicly tried for his heinous crimes, but, predictably, not
everything went as planned. Making
“in the field” adjustments is always the tricky part of any clandestine
All three agents survived the
experience, but not exactly emotionally intact.
They carried with them some dark secrets that affected all of them
differently. And now, in their
“twilight” years, they’re expected to do something to rectify an old
The part of Rachel is played by
Jessica Chastain (the lone American) as the younger version, and Helen
Mirren as the older version. They
look nothing alike, but other than that, both do a superlative job with
their roles. It’s interesting to
hear Mirren dialogue in German, and speak the King’s English with an
Israeli accent. A wheelchair-bound
Tom Wilkinson (another Brit) plays the older Stephan, with Martin Csokas (a
New Zealander) as the younger version. Sam
Worthington (an Englishman educated in
) plays the younger David, and Ciarian Hinds (an Irishman) the older David.
The Nazi “monster,” Jesper Christensen, is Danish, so Director
John Madden had his hands full making all the language transitions sound
authentic. But he did.
He also coaxed some compelling performances out of this disparate
casting, and is to be commended for pulling it together in an
On a personal note, my father fought
in World War II, and his unit happened to stumble upon the Camp at
while there will still “inmates” there, after the German soldiers had
fled. It was a sight he would never
forget. So this film is, in part,
lest we forget those unspeakable atrocities.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Co-Pastor,
United Presbyterian Church,