Friday Flicks: Do We Owe ‘The Debt’ A Viewing?

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Laurie Sparham / Focus Features

Academy Award winner Helen Mirren stars as a retired secret agent in "The Debt"

Grab some popcorn! NewsFeed’s Glen Levy brings you the movies you should check out (or avoid) this weekend.

The Debt

Taking place over two time periods, this Nazi-hunting thriller tells the tale of one woman, played by a pair of actresses. It is 1997 and Mossad (Israeli intelligence agency) agent Rachel Singer (Helen Mirren) is being honored for her heroism 30 years earlier for ridding the world of Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), a Nazi doctor who committed hundreds of atrocities.

But, you know what’s coming: what exactly took place? Now we’re back in the mid 1960s and Rachel is being played by Jessica Chastain who, along with her eventual ex-husband and partner in the mission, Stephan (Tom Wilkinson/Marton Csokas) and David (Ciarán Hinds/Sam Worthington), supposedly took down the doc in East Berlin.

The Debt is helmed by John Madden, who helped Shakespeare in Love on its way to Oscar glory. The movie is based on the 2007 Israeli drama Ha-Hov. Chastain has been singled out as the standout performer, but she has many irons in the fire this year, including the likes of The Tree of Life and The Help (she’ll also be appearing in Take Shelter and Texas Killing Fields). And as well as the source text, if there’s any film that The Debt owes, well, a debt, it’s surely Steven Spielberg’s Munich.

(MORE: See TIME’s full review of The Debt)

Apollo 18

Tagline: There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon.

The tagline for Apollo 18 – There’s a reason we’ve never gone back to the moon – should get economists brimming with excitement. The reason for not going back? It’s mightily expensive, you know!

But closer examination reveals that the Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego directed movie is actually not so much about numbers but questions. In official circles, Apollo 17, which launched in December 1972, was the last manned mission to the moon. But the following December, according to this film, two American astronauts were sent there on a secret mission funded by the U.S. Department of Defense (the mission was officially canceled, and those details that the movie is playing up are not to be trusted.)

The Weinstein Company can talk up Apollo 18 all they like – Bob Weinstein has denied it’s a work of fiction, telling TIME’s sister publication Entertainment Weekly that “We didn’t shoot anything, we found it. Found, baby!” – but the mockumentary found-footage style is the truth, no matter what the publicity machine tries to spout out.

Apollo 18 clearly wants to be a cross between Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project, but it counts for little when Transformers: Dark of the Moon got there first. And the fact that Apollo 18 was originally due to come out in April but was delayed isn’t merely ironic — it probably tells you everything you need to know. Apollo 18, we have a problem.

(VIDEO: See TIME’s Fall Movie Preview)

Seven Days In Utopia

Tagline: Life is never the same once you’ve been to Utopia.

Golf movies, if you can excuse the pun, are very much a hit and miss affair. For every Tin Cup and Caddyshack, there is The Legend of Bagger Vance or Fairway to Heaven (or indeed Caddyshack II).

So where does Seven Days In Utopia fit in? A hole-in-one or out of bounds? The reviews thus far lean exclusively toward the latter, which will be a blow for first-time director Matthew Dean Russell, who was presumably hoping for – ahem – fore-star reviews.

Luke Chisolm (Lucas Black) is a budding professional golfer with all the talent in the world but his first shot(s) at the big-time is an unmitigated disaster. His solution? To become unexpectedly stranded in Utopia, Texas, where he meets the eccentric rancher Johnny Crawford (the always watchable Robert Duvall) who just so happens to be a retired golf pro. “Try living it,” asks Luke before the grand reveal. “Believe it or not, I have,” comes Johnny’s response. Only in the movies, right?

The aforementioned Seven Days he spends in Utopia is full of both putting lessons as well as life ones packed to the gills with golfing metaphors. There’s a fairly heavy religious bent too (the movie beings with a Bible quotation — Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”) and we learn that Luke’s father was a bad man for making him practice on Easter Sunday. But it’s the relationship between Luke and Johnny (which essentially mirrors that between a different Luke, Skywalker, and Yoda)  that matters the most. “See it, feel it, trust it,” says Johnny. “Don’t think.” Only in the movies, right?

(PHOTOS: The Tiger Woods scandal)

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: This is not going to be a week that troubles Oscar come next year so it’s probably for the best to rent Munich or, if pushed, see The Debt.

Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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