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.
The film tells the story of Michael (Oscar Isaac), a young Armenian who dreams of studying medicine. When he travels to Constantinople to study, he meets Armenian Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) and falls in love with her, although she dates the American photographer Chris (Christian Bale), sent to Turkey to record the first genocide of the 20th century when the Turks exterminated the Armenian minority. A love triangle settles amidst the horrors of war.
Our village sat high in the mountains of Southern Turkey. It was half Turk, half Armenian. I was the local apothecary. For 200 years the Boghosians made medicines using formulas handed down from our ancestors. All right. We treated everyone alike... Muslim and Christian, rich and poor. Every morning and night. I was proud of our craft. But making potions from herbs and minerals was not enough. My greatest desire was to study medicine at the imperial school in ...
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Clearly an actors' movie and can be appreciated even if you don't care about history
What madness is this? I just arrived from cinema and although the summer season has begun they showed me a movie which is not: some random French or Russian comedy, a sequel, a prequel or at least origin story an animation, based on YA novel or comic book based on a novel or non-fiction book or some older movie there's not even any superheroes or mutants in it, ferchrissake! Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire and their attempt to wipe out as many Armenian people as they can, at its heart there is a love story – two guys (Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale) want the same girl (Charlotte Le Bon). The Turkish government would never allow a movie like this to be filmed on their home territory – it's said that the Turks have never acknowledged the genocide or their role in it. So it was all filmed in Spain, Malta, Portugal and USA. It has a big budget of 90 million USD and that money is well spent. The movie as a whole looks old- fashioned in a good way: majestic and poetic, also a bit nostalgic for the past simpler times". The story is also old-fashioned in a good way, which is to say the approach is populist – clearly black and white, we always know who the good and the bad guys are and nobody's choices are never questioned in broader context. But this kind of approach is not a problem when we have three leading thespians so able as Isaac, Bale and Le Bon. They put every nuance of the material to efficient use. "The Promise" is clearly an actors' movie and that's how it can be appreciated even if you personally do not care about that part of history. Some of the scenes with strongest dramatical impact are done even shortly and without any words, just a quick look, pause, and they move on. The Project" never dwells long on anything happening on screen, there's so much story to give and absorb in the 132 minutes it has. And yet thanks to competent direction and superb actors, it never feels rushed, there's always enough room for important things and people in the context of the story. I especially like the action scenes which are actually pretty small in scope, compared to most war dramas produced today, but it never feel that way. The suspense and danger surrounding the main characters is always real. I am not trying to step on anyone's feelings and underplay the seriousness of the genocide, but it can be said that the century-old suffering of Armenians is not the most well-known of historical tragedies, especially to the general English-speaking audience the movie is produced for. So having a big budget that enormous seems kind of risky. Luckily for the people involved, the project was fully financed by billionaire Kirk Kerkorian of Armenian extraction whose family had lived through the events depicted in the movie, and all the proceeds will go to nonprofits (ie, charity). A fun IMDb fact to end with. The Promise" premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, but before the audience even left the theater, reviewers suspected to be Turkish government- sponsored trolls had submitted ca 4,000 negative ratings. That number quickly multiplied before the movie was released. Maybe that's why the IMDb score is pretty low, 5.9/10. All in all, it's a competent and confident movie from all involved. Even the main man behind the screen, the co-writer and director Terry George is not randomly chosen. His earlier magnum opus is acclaimed and Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda" (2004) about mass murder of Tutsi people in 1990's Africa. So it's like his second shot at the epic making glory in Hollywood. Here's hope the movie doesn't disappear unnoticed although not having superheroes or even mutants is clearly a misstep!
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