Sam Worthington did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying David Peretz in The Debt.
Sam Worthington made his breakout with Avatar, which went on to become the highest grossing film of all time. This lead to a certain period of Worthington being cast as the leading man in a series of roles, where he was most often seen as underwhelming or bland. Now one failing to succeed as a leading man does not mean one's a bad actor, sometimes the actor just might not be right for those types of roles. Well with that in mind let's take a look at his supporting role in this film. The Debt jumps back and forth in time as it follows the three operatives, Rachel (Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren), Stefan (Marton Csokas, Tom Wilkinson), and David (Worthington, Ciaran Hinds) in youth and in their later years. In the later years we find Rachel and Stefan as a bitterly divorced pair, and we only meet David briefly before he unexpectedly commits suicide.
David's fate is already known before we come back to follow his younger self on the mission to capture the Nazi doctor Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen), and essentially Worthington must lead the character to this point. We first meet David as he is preparing the mission with the others and Worthington presents an isolated man. Worthington keeps an emotional detachment around David, and no this is not in in the way you might expect. Worthington is instead very effective in realizing a man placed into this state of a strange apathy. When it is revealed that David lost his entire family in the holocaust, this seems as though we already know this fact through Worthington's performance. That grave loss can be seen in every second of Worthington's performance as he presents a man who seems to always be actively closing himself off in order to not constantly be reminded of his past.
Worthington is haunting by portraying the intensity in David's to be the way he is, and portrays his time performing the actual requirements of the mission as the only thing that can keep his mind from his pain, if only for a moment. Worthington's work acts a powerful reminder of what the entire point of their mission is, as he wears the deep scars of their motivation. As the mission develops so does a love triangle between the three operatives. Although it is clear that Rachel is most interested in David, we know she ends up with Stefan. Worthington makes this dynamic absolutely believable for his portrayal of David's terrible state. Worthington captures the emotional mess that David, as there is a constant desperation and confusion of a man who wants to pursue this love but can't bring himself to. Worthington portrays the difficult struggle in David to try to reach out, then pulls back as though to avoid the possibility of suffering that same loss once again.
The team eventually captures the Nazi though they fail to properly extract him leaving them to watch over him, waiting for the an possible escape route. Worthington once again excels as this positions David's exact state as he interacts with Vogel. Again Worthington keeps this overarching attempt at that detachment, as he focuses on his duty, and away from what the man did to his family. David is able to keep this detachment until Vogel purposefully continues to prod David with his hateful words. Worthington is brilliant in the breakdown scene as he absolutely earns the moment, and makes it feel as though David for a brief moment is releasing his anguish as he attacks Vogel. This leads to Vogel's escape, and Stefan to encourage them to concoct a lie that they actually succeeded in killing the man. Worthington shows that this lie essentially is the final limit to his repression, depicting a vicious anger at the very notion of reiterating the lie. This however also finally allows him to reveal his love to Rachel. Worthington is absolutely heartbreaking as he conveys such vulnerability in the moment, and is devastating in his reaction as she ignores his plea. As we end on Worthington's performance he has brought David to a man only a moment away from giving up on life. Worthington's soulful portrait of man being overwhelmed by despair elevates the film, and proves his talent as an actor.