In­ti­mate com­pli­ca­tions amid the hor­rors of geno­cide

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS -

THE PROM­ISE Di­rected by Terry Ge­orge. Star­ring Os­car Isaac, Char­lotte Le Bon, Chris­tian Bale, Daniel Giménez Ca­cho, Shohreh Agh­dashloo, Rade Serbedz­ija, Mar­wan Ken­zari. Cert 12A, gen re­lease, 133mins Not too far into the 20th cen­tury, small-town Ar­me­nian apothe­cary Mikael (Os­car Isaac) agrees to marry a beau­ti­ful lo­cal girl and uses the dowry to travel to Con­stantino­ple to study medicine. Once there, he be­friends Emre ( Ben

Hur’s Mar­wan Ken­zari), the son of a high-rank­ing Turk­ish of­fi­cial, and Ana (Char­lotte Le Bon), an Ar­me­nian bal­le­rina raised in Paris.

Ana is ro­man­ti­cally in­volved with Chris My­ers (Chris­tian Bale), a fiercely de­ter­mined Amer­i­can re­porter for the As­so­ci­ated Press, a de­tail that does not pre­vent Mikael from fall­ing head over heels for her. Th­ese in­ti­mate com­pli­ca­tions are bru­tally dis­rupted by the out­break of the first World War.

Mikael avoids con­scrip­tion into the Ot­toman army but, when he at­tempts to de­fend his un­cle from im­pris­on­ment dur­ing the round-ups of April 24th, 1915, he is de­tained and sent to a labour camp him­self. The life there is mer­ci­less but there are even worse things hap­pen­ing to the Ar­me­ni­ans else­where.

Terry Ge­orge is ac­cus­tomed to shin­ing a light on dark­est his­tory. The Os­car-win­ning writer-di­rec­tor has pre­vi­ously tack­led such un­likely movie sub­jects as the 1981 IRA hunger strikes ( Some Mother’s

Son) and the 1994 Rwan­dan geno­cide ( Ho­tel Rwanda). Here the Ir­ish film-maker takes on the Ar­me­nian geno­cide that be­gan in 1915 and ended af­ter the Ot­toman gov­ern­ment’s sys­tem­atic ex­ter­mi­na­tion of 1.5 mil­lion Ar­me­ni­ans. It’s a wor­thy sub­ject and one that has been un­fairly for­got­ten: Hitler, when jus­ti­fy­ing his own geno­cide, asked “Who, af­ter all, speaks to­day of the an­ni­hi­la­tion of the Ar­me­ni­ans?”

The Prom­ise was fi­nanced by the late Ar­me­nian philanthropist Kirk Kerko­rian, and is not short on star wattage. In ad­di­tion to the big guns of

Bat­man (Bale) and Star Wars (Isacc), well-known folks such as Jean Reno and James Cromwell make pop-up ap­pear­ances. It’s a glossy pack­age. Some­times too glossy: Javier Aguir­re­sarobe’s cin­e­matog­ra­phy is pos­i­tively drip­ping and Gabriel Yared’s score doesn’t let up for a se­cond.

As one might ex­pect, the hor­rors and the nor­mal­i­sa­tion of same are deftly han­dled, even when the di­a­logue is over­loaded with his­tor­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal de­tails.

Sadly, the love tri­an­gle is rather less suc­cess­ful. There is, iron­i­cally, far more sex­ual chem­istry be­tween Mikael and the fi­nance-he-left-be­hind ( West­world’s An­gela Sarafyan) than there is be­tween Mikael and Ana. Le Bon’s Ana is pretty and nice and good-hearted, at­tributes that leave her dan­ger­ously un­der­qual­i­fied to be a home-wreck­ing heart­breaker.

Worth­while, none­the­less. TARA BRADY

Em­bed­ded: Chris­tian Bale in The Prom­ise

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.