Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and sophisticated Ana, and Chris – a renowned American journalist based in Paris.
Michael lives in a small Armenian village in historic Armenia, on the eastern part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, and he promises himself to a rich village woman to get 400 gold coins as dowry. This allows him to travel to Istanbul – the city known then and now to Armenians by its historical name, Konstantinopoli – to become a medical student where he befriends a son of a powerful general.
Christopher (Christian Bale) is a reporter for the Associated Press and he brings along Ana, an Armenian woman raised in Paris. Michael falls in love with Ana. The Ottoman Empire starts to round up Armenians, initiating the Armenian Genocide. Michael is able to escape by avoiding enlistment in the army under a medical student exemption with the help of his friend.
However, he is later sent to prison camps after trying to save his wealthy uncle who has been imprisoned. Michael escapes the camps, and makes it back to his village. He goes to the mountain cabin with his wife, where she soon becomes pregnant. However, due to the difficult pregnancy his wife is brought back to the village.
Michael hears that Ana and Christopher (Associated Press Reporter) are in a nearby Red Cross facility and he goes there to help his family escape. While heading back to his village to help them escape. His mother survives. Michael and Ana and a large group of refugees fight off the Ottoman army on a mountain and escape on the back side to the coast as the French Navy comes to their rescue.
The Promise is a 2016 historical drama directed by Terry George and starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, set in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. The film premiered on September 11, 2016, at the Toronto International Film Festival is scheduled to be released in the United States on April 21, 2017, by Open Road Films.
After only 3 screenings, IMDb registered over 80,000 ratings for the film, many of which being either 10/10 or 1/10, primarily from non-US users. This led many to believe the ratings are based on political reasons (a practice known as vote brigading), largely by people from the country of Turkey and Armenian Genocide denial campaigns without having watched the film. As of 9 March 2017 the film holds a rating of 4.1/10 on IMDB.
Film Review for The Promise
here are many reasons to criticise James Cameron’s record-breaking weepie Titanic but one of the most frustrating reminders of its success lies in Hollywood’s repetitive treatment of historical tragedies ever since. Not that the director invented the formula of placing a love triangle in the middle of adversity, but he showed that it could be extraordinarily profitable – and movies from Pearl Harbor to Pompeii have tried desperately to replicate the package.
Hotel Rwanda director Terry George has found himself another devastating, and far less covered, genocide to focus on, but in order to warrant the extravagant scale, a romantic trio has been placed front and centre. The film starts in Armenia in 1914 and follows Michael (Oscar Isaac), a man working in an apothecary, who dreams of becoming a doctor. But to afford the fees, he gets betrothed to a local woman and uses the dowry to go to school in Constantinople.
Once he arrives, he quickly falls for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) but – you guessed it – she’s already in a relationship. Her boyfriend is the fiery Chris (Christian Bale), an American journalist reporting on the growing tensions between Turkey and Armenia. As Michael and Ana get closer, war breaks out and the three find themselves in the middle of a terrifying situation.
There’s something rather dusty about The Promise as George pushes his characters through a string of soapy machinations that feel incredibly familiar. But there’s also something rather comfortingly reliable about it as well and, while a tad workmanlike, his solid direction ensures that the drama is mostly involving. It also helps that the Armenian genocide is a relatively unexplored period of history and makes for a horrifying backdrop.
Subtlety isn’t the film’s strong point – with certain lines of dialogue (“I’m going to slaughter everyone on this mountain!”) proving to be hilariously on the nose and Bale forced into some rather hammy scenes of rage. Isaac fares a little better and it’s refreshing at least for his character not to be a natural born fighter (there’s one rather nicely observed scene where he struggles to load a gun) but his chemistry with Le Bon is nonexistent. This proves to be problematic given the film’s focus on romance, and one does wish that there were more context provided to the conflict itself and a wider view of the atrocities taking place.
But rather like Russell Crowe’s similarly creaky directorial debut The Water Diviner last year, there’s something to enjoy about its traditional brand of storytelling, devoid of any irony. There are definitely more interesting and satisfying films to be made about the Armenian genocide and this is never going to become a Titanic-sized success – but it’s a solid, if overly soapy, drama.
The Promise (2017)
Directed by: Terry George
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Sarafyan, Charlotte Le Bon, Tom Hollander, Tamer Hassan, Jean Reno, James Cromwell
Screenplay by: Terry George, Robin Swicord
Production Design by: Benjamín Fernández
Cinematography by: Javier Aguirresarobe
Film Editing by: Steven Rosenblum
Costume Design by: Pierre-Yves Gayraud
Set Decoration by: Paula Maestro, Pilar Revuelta, José Luis Saldaña
Art Direction by: Dídac Bono, Alejandro Fernández, Gabriel Liste, Óscar Sempere
Music by: Gabriel Yared
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality.
Distributed by: Open Road Films
Release Date: April 21, 2017