Movie Review – “The Promise”

Fans of the galactic X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron in “Star Wars” will find the Guatemalan-American actor and musician Isaac in his best role since 2014’s crime-fest “A Most Violent Year”.

Patrick King, REEL BRIEF

“The Promise” premiered at last year’s Toronto Film Festival billed as a dual-threat romance and war story.  After an enthusiastic reception from festival goers, this early 1900’s true holocaust account was quickly picked up by a distribution studio and given last weekend as its release date…exactly 102 years after Ottoman Empire authorities rounded up and either deported or killed 1.5 million ethnic Armenians.

With an impressive cast led by Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Christian Bale (“The Dark Knight”), “The Promise” takes us back to the later years of Ottoman Empire (1453-1923) and the succeeding Turkish government’s eradication of a people long before the evil Adolph Hitler and Germany came onto the world’s atrocities stage. Isaac portrays a young Armenian from a small village who travels to the capital city of Constantinople seeking to attend medical school before his life, and the entire region, gets turned upside down.

Although the film bites off a bit more than it can chew in 2 hours and 14 minutes, “The Promise” nicely builds up the romantic love triangle between Isaac’s charming Mikael character, a young socialite named Ana (convincingly played by Charlotte Le Bon), and an American journalist (Bale).  A strong case can be made that an entire movie, minus the savageness of war, could’ve focused solely on this trio of personal relationships.  That, however, would have skipped the film’s most important features and history lesson.

“The Promise” is a historic achievement that spotlights a lesser known genocide committed during and after a lesser known war (World War I).  The sudden destabilization of a region and the ethnic cleansing that soon follows is both dramatic and heart-wrenching to watch unfold.  Despite not being able to invest in any of the main characters fully due to the film’s vast war narrative to tell, “The Promise” keenly bounces between the three love interests and the horrors surrounding each interwoven life..

An exceptional cast abounds in “The Promise”, perhaps no performance better than Le Bon’s as the lusted for Ana. The budding relationships all feel authentic and raise the stakes in this survival story.  Fans of the galactic X-wing fighter pilot Poe Dameron in “Star Wars” will find the Guatemalan-American actor and musician Isaac in his best role since 2014’s crime-fest “A Most Violent Year”.

Don’t expect this film to garner much notice, though, getting left behind in the dust of “The Fate of the Furious” and about to get overshadowed by Star-Lord Peter Quill & Co.  But for those interested in a history lesson that doesn’t get nearly the attention in schoolbooks as it deserves, “The Promise” offers the grim details with a romantic angle.

Grade: B+

“The Promise” is rated PG-13 for thematic material, including war atrocities, violence, and disturbing images, along with some sexuality. Its running time is 2 hours and 43 minutes.

© 2017, Patrick. All rights reserved.



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