The Promise, starring, Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon is an historical drama set in Turkey during the end of the Ottoman Empire with intensive focus on the Armenian Genocide in 1914. Michael Pagosian (Isaac) is an aspiring doctor who leaves his hometown of Siroun, Turkey to study medicine and encounters an Armenian artist/tutor, Ana (Le Bon), who is involved with an American journalist, Chris Myers (Bale). Michael and Ana fall for each other and Chris becomes aware of it, unfortunately, the Turkish government aggressively begins the mass deportation and murder of its Armenian citizens before the three of them have a chance to directly address the matter. The story progresses and the audience comes face to face with the horrible effects of genocide. Chris, Ana and Michael fight to help other Armenians survive the brutal treatment by the Turkish government as well as struggle to keep themselves alive.
Co-writer and director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda) possessed the heavy responsibility of balancing educating the viewer via displaying the harsh reality Armenians faced while maintaining the dignity and respecting the culture of the Armenian people during that period. He allowed the cinematography to speak to that balance. You saw it in the simplicity of the wardrobe, the pure, unfiltered shots of the Turkish landscape, and in the dialogue of the Armenian people before, during and after the genocide.
Writer, Robin Swincord (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) took the helm in depicting the love story between Michael, Ana and Chris. The acts against humanity taking place in that setting is the leaden cake of the film and the romantic nuances between the main characters is clearly the sweet frosting necessary to swallow it down. It was very clear that a love triangle was taking place between the 3 lead characters, but the dynamic subtly refused to over dramatize the situation with words such as, “I love you.” To do so, would have definitely trivialized the real life trauma that was faced by the Armenian people. It was refreshing to witness in a Hollywood budgeted film, Hollywood taking a backseat and restraining the impulse to modernize the love story within it.
The Armenian Genocide (and Turkey’s refusal to acknowledge any of it) was the primary focus, yet the gore of this tragedy was also tastefully reigned in. This is a story that needs to be told simply because it was told well. The Promise gracefully highlights this world tragedy and will hopefully foster discussion among society; manifesting preventative measures to apply throughout the global community.
The Promise premiers in theaters April 21.
4/5 stars for its cinematography and historical accuracy.