Review: The Debt
The most interesting aspect of The Debt, (which had as its original title, Oliver’s Deal), is that it looks and feels like it could and should be a slightly better movie. The pacing is spot on, (at least at the beginning, in which three different stories set in Peru do not seem to intersect, until they do), and the look and feel of the film is steely and intense.
These are assets for writer / director Barney Elliott, and perhaps his greatest one is cinematographer Bjørn Ståle Bratberg, who will likely get around as a result of his stunning work on this film. The Norwegian uses soft focus on faces and lights wide angle vistas extremely well.
Almost as equally strong is the cast assembled by Elliott, featuring such scene-stealers as David Straithairn, Alberto Ammann and especially Elsa Olivero as the long-suffering Maria Ruiz. Heck, even Stephen Dorff is alright in the lead role of a banker named Oliver Campbell, (you guessed it, The Debt is a title with multiple uses). However, the three interlocking stories come together in a less exciting way than we had originally expected, the pairing of multiple storylines and South America make this film feel like a slightly inferior version of Babel, and the theme of debt is extremely overused throughout, not letting the film truly breathe.
If the film kept its original title, (which, honestly, wasn’t that great a title either) perhaps it would not feel so one note, as the moral versus practical ethical dilemma is meant to be illuminating, but comes off as slightly clumsy. Better this film, than a nihilistic project with deep greed at its core.