MOVIE REVIEW: The Promise

The true story of the plight of the Armenian Turks who were rounded up and killed on the eve of World War One.  The setting is the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and a young man leaves his village to learn to become a Doctor, funded by the dowry that he accepts to marry a local girl.  When he gets to the capital and starts to learn his craft he makes friends with a Turkish Nobleman’s son, then a reporter and his girlfriend.  As the conflict in the world becomes more and more intense and the genocide in the country becomes clearer the love triangle between the Reporter, the Trainee Doctor, and the Woman that loved them both shows just as much fire.

Soapbox time, we have to start to be cool to one another, to say your way of life is your way of life, enjoy it.  I’m not going to harm you because you go to this place on that day of the week.  So lets find that thing that we have got in common and take it from there.  The one thing that mostly have in common are movies and here we go with a film that shows how little we’ve learned over the last 100 years. 

This cast, including Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, and Charlotte Le Bon, all give their roles their due attention.  There is a little bit of me that felt that this is yet another one of those films that needs to have been stretched out and turned into a mini series.  Oscar plays the trainee Doctor who is torn between his promise to the girl back in the village and his ever-growing love for Charlotte Le Bon.  Bale has that usual intensity that he’s well-known for as he plays the conscience of the film as the American Reporter who wants to expose the genocide to the world.

The film held my attention throughout and it was harrowing, tough, and worth my time to watch.  The thing is that I wanted more, a lot more, I wanted to get to know more and more of the supporting cast/characters that are just glance upon.  The main culprit in that is Tom Hollander as Garin, I’d watch him read the dictionary, and this little cameo role needed to be extended.  Although it packed a punch, he’s too good of a performer to just give us something or someone magical and then nothing, gone.

While there are lines of similarity between this and other films about genocide, along with some familiar musical notes, there was a lack of a follow through.  It would be like a UFC fighter punching his opponent in the face, knocking him back against the cage, and then backing up himself.  There are times when you get hit in the face to pay more attention than you’d normally show, but then we’re backed off to show the romance.  This is why I wanted a lot more time in this film.  If it was three hours plus I’d have been happier, maybe others wouldn’t have been, but also if it were a 6 part BBC drama I’d be over the moon.  The production values are amazing and I have to give Oscar props for his accent which didn’t drop once.  Bale is Bale, he could probably do this role asleep in the corner.

The final scene was not needed at all, it was a nice way to settle the film down, but the pay off is the final boat scene, it said it all.  The sad part is that the Turkish Government to this day will not confirm that this genocide happened, or maybe what is saddest of all is that we’re allowing this to happen.  But as a tool that may get you to open your eyes to the world around you I can’t urge you strongly enough to go see The Promise.  For fans of the period drama that want to know a hidden story from World War One, it’s a must see film.

Director: Terry George
Writers: Terry George, Robin Swicord
Stars: Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, Shohreh Aghdashloo

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