Summary: 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.
**This film is kind of hard to talk about but I will do my best.
The Cast and characters. We meet quite a few people but I’m going to stick to mentioning the three leads.
Oscar Isaac as Mikael Boghosian. He is the stand out, hands down. I love Oscar Isaac and I wonder if this was a pet project because I think he’s way to good for it. Mikael is an apothecary in his hometown, he goes to a city to be a medical student and he meets a few friends. He’s staying with his uncle and he meets Ana and immediately he’s smitten with her. WWI begins and he tries to avoid being drafted by getting a “medical student” exemption with the help of his friend. But that doesn’t last and he is sent to a prison labor camp. He manages to escape and finds his way back home. It seems like life has gotten together but the war has found him. So without going into more detail about the story, I think the amount of emotions Oscar Isaac puts into this character is fantastic. He starts off as this hopeful young man, who falls in love and we see him fall and it’s all downhill from there. Oscar Isaac has this magnetism that makes him stand out in anything he’s in. He’s charismatic and sympathetic and when he in emotional moments, man. He’s just so good. Again, I think he’s too good for the film.
Charlotte Le Bon as Ana Khesarian. She’s an Armenian woman who was raised in Paris. We first meet her at Mikael’s uncle’s house, she’s teaching his cousins how to dance. She is pretty, exotic in that she’s traveled outside of their home, she’s strong and is happy to claim her Armenian roots. She is strong and tries very hard to help those in need. However, it does feel at times that she is just there to be part of the triangle, or to be the object of Mikael’s eye. I think the actress is great but the character doesn’t remain that interesting. It comes and goes.
Christian Bale as Chris Myers. Christian Bale is always good I think, he’s an American reporter who is in Turkey writing articles about what’s happening. When the war kicks off, he gets involved and he tries chronicle the events, he even gets involved with trying to help orphans escape. He’s dating Ana. He also seems to have a few issues of his own in the beginning. He’s an interesting character, at first they make him come off as a “villain” but that goes away. I think Bale is good here, he’s kind of a low key character, they all are actually. Chris comes off as a brash, drunk American but as the film progresses, we see a smart man who tries to help those fleeing while trying to tell their story and stay alive himself. I almost thought he would be a bad guy in the love triangle but I didn’t think that happened.
Supporting Characters. There are a lot of supporting characters but we only get to see his parents, another woman, his uncle and family and his friend Emre who is also a medical student. They are all good, his mother though, Shohreh Aghdashloo is really good. She isn’t huge in the film but the parts she’s in, she’s fantastic.
The Look of the Film. This film looks really good. The costumes are nice, and while it’s in positive mode it feels happy. But when the tone shift and goes dark, the look of the film starts to shift with the tone which I think is cool. The story gets really heavy and it does not shy away from that, everything is crisp, it’s seen and I think that’s a plus for the type of film it is.
The Story. This is based on the true story of Turkey’s attempt to wipe out Armenians. Now, there’s been controversy surrounding it because that time period has been ignored and Turkey doesn’t claim their involvement but it’s so sad. It starts off by going in a different direction, we follow Mikael who wants to be a medical student, he falls in love with a woman who is with another man, then a war begins and he is thrust into it. It just takes off from there, and it’s emotional. I don’t want to spoil anything, but we see death, we see people who are fleeing for their lives, we see children be casualties of war and genocide and we see people try to fight back. It’s intense.
The Music. Gabriel Yared manages to make a score that is so sad. Due to the nature of the film, the music has to match that, especially as the tone completely changes after the first part of the film and I think he manages to add to the story. There are emotional scenes, that while sad, the music helps put it over the top. I didn’t cry, but I did do that thing where I covered my mouth because it was shocking and the music helped my senses.
The Romance. This will show up again later, but on one end, it’s kind of cute and you totally see it coming. The end has an emotional moment that ties in with the romance that’s a plus.
Wasted Potential. There is a lot of wasted potential in this film. I know it’s based on true events, whether or not the people are real, I’m not sure, but I think there are parts that are way more interesting than others. The movie feels overblown because it wants to tackle everything that happens, when there are smaller storylines that were way more interesting. I think the film should have been told completely through Mikael’s eyes, it should have never strayed from him, that way it would feel more focused and we would be able to understand what’s happening through his eyes. It would be more contained and probably not be as “boring”.
The Love Triangle. So there is a love triangle in this film and it’s a focal point for the characters and I didn’t really care about it. For one thing, I don’t really like love triangles anyway, they’re so annoying. But I mean it understood it but I don’t think it added anything. It’s like those epic movies Titanic, Pearl Harbor where it’s based on true events but the characters have some type of love triangle thing going on and I don’t think it really adds anything to the story, especially from 1/3 of the triangle.
Boring. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the movie overall, but it’s boring. There are moments when it just lags, the pacing is out of whack a lot here. There are parts where there’s a lot going on, it’s so fast paced then it slows sooo down and I’m like “and now it’s gotten boring”.
Too Long. 2 hours and 13 minutes long, probably 20 minutes too long, I think 20 minutes can do a lot. It just feels like it keeps going and going and going. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the pacing is weird, if they would have filled those moments in with something else, then maybe I wouldn’t have felt the length of the film.
Overall, I like this movie. I think it has a good cast, Oscar Isaac especially is a standout, he’s almost too good for the film. The film has a lovely look, the music adds ambience to the film while also being a support in the emotional moments. The story is very real and raw even with possible inadequacies. However, this film has a lot of wasted potential, while it is an “epic” it tries to hard to tell a story that might have been too big for this film, at least in the way it’s told. It’s very advantageous to tell a horrifying story like the genocide of the Armenians in Turkey but it just falls on it’s side in the story telling.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
Have you seen The Promise? Are you interested? Let me know in the comments below.
What’s your favorite Oscar Isaac film? What movie were you surprised that he was in
Favorite Christian Bale film? Let me know in the comments below!