This thoughtful film commences with three Mossad Israeli intelligence agents returning to their homeland in 1967, as the doors slowly lift on the cargo plane on which they travelled home.
They move from the dark to light, a journey that the three continue to travel over the next thirty years.
We then move forward to 1997 to meet Rachel played in the present by Helen Mirren, Steven (Tom Wilkinson) and David (Ciaran Hinds) now retired and following differing careers and pursuits. In 1967 as young agents they were tasked to “extradite” or snatch the “Surgeon of Birkenau” or Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen). Vogel a notorious Nazi Doktor who used to experiment on inmates within Nazi concentration camps, a fictitious movie creation but presumably heavily modeled upon the real life notorious Auschwitz “Angel of Death”, Josef Mengeles.
Rachel has a beautiful Daughter and grandchild and enjoys celebrity status for her part in the raid, something her daughter has recently written a book upon.
Skipping back in time, we are transported back to cold war Berlin 1967 where the beautiful, inexperienced and much younger Rachel (Jessica Chastain) joins the two Mossad agents “in country”, David (Sam Worthington) and Stephan (Marton Szokas). Intending to pose as David’s wife Rachel, she not unsurprisingly causes sparks with the young agents with far reaching effects.
The film switches between the two basic timelines to great effect and is not hard to follow. This is a revenge film but softened by a desire for justice, the agents are not there to kill Vogel but to bring him home to whatever form of Israeli justice awaits him.
Rachel poses as a potential mother wanting assistance from the good Doktor Bernhart, who appears now to be living a life of a paternal obstetrician, complete with a German matronly assistant.
It is not long before the Doktor is in the group’s care and that is when their problems start, extricating him from Cold War Berlin will not be easy.
Mirren, Tom Wilkinson and Hinds all acquit themselves well, as you would expect. Mirren again showing the range of her acting abilities in another excellent characterization. Wilkinson again doing good work for Director John Madden of “Shakespeare in Love” and “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” fame.
The younger actors do well, although Worthington seems a strange choice with his ever present hint of Aussie accent, not a bad role for him but perhaps another actor would have brought more gravitas to the character.
To say too much would add spoilers but the plot moves in unexpected directions and adds levels of intrigue, remorse and complicity which transcends a normal “genre” movie. Having great actors in the roles helps of course.
A considered thriller/drama that does not provide easy answers and may leave you thinking long after the slightly ambiguous ending.