BY GILBERTO CAMPA
Historical dramas can sometimes be very difficult to project on screen for many reasons, one of those being because the film doesn’t do a well enough job of projecting what the characters are going through to keep the audience enthralled in the film. Going in with “The Promise” there were aspects of the movie that I was excited for starting with the director of the film Terry George who previously wrote and directed another historical drama in Hotel Rwanda (2004) which was a very powerful film. And the other parts of “The Promise” that I was really looking forward to seeing were the additions of Oscar Issac and Christian Bale who are two of my favorite performers in the business today, and after seeing this movie, they didn’t disappoint.
The movie starts with Mikael (Oscar Issac) in his village set in historical Armenia on the eastern side of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. He is a local medical hand in his hometown and has a passion for medicine and something that you discover as the film goes along, the well being of people especially his own. One thing that this movie does really well is showing you just how beautiful Turkey and the surrounding areas are, which is due to the great work that the cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe does in this movie. I wasn’t familiar with Charlotte Le Bon but her character Ana is introduced in a very nice way once Mikael decides to live his dream and goes to Constantinople to become a doctor and live his dream. As all of this is going on, tensions between the Armenians and the Turkish population is slowly shown towards the beginning of the film and it did not feel rushed or forced, it was a slow build that reaches its breaking point towards the end of the first act when the Armenian Genocide begins.
Christian Bale’s character Chris Myers who is an American reporter for the Associated Press is the last addition to this cast who brings an external perspective into the film when he is introduced. Bale again delivers a good supporting performance (American accent and all) and has some of the best character development in the film, especially towards the second half of the movie where he plays a major part at end of the movie. Yes, one of the big parts of this film is the beautiful love story that develops between Ana and Mikael which carries a lot of emotional weight as the film progresses but looking back it did feel a little bit rushed (like a Disney movie as my girlfriend said), but still very important none the less.
The one word or theme that I would use to describe this movie is pain, based on the trailer to this movie you would believe that the love story between Ana and Mikael is what drives this movie but after watching it, I would say that something else more important drives the movie. The emotions that “The Promise” takes you through was very difficult to deal with but it just made it even more compelling, the atrocities that the Armenians went through is a very important story that was expressed in a very real way through the movie and affected everyone involved. By the end you will appreciate the power of perseverance and see firsthand that family isn’t just related by blood, but through experience.
Oscar Issac is the driving force as to why this movie works so well in my opinion, the performance that he delivers is very real and through his verbal and non verbal acting you get to experience firsthand the journey that Mikael goes through and the sacrifices that he makes in this movie. I can’t even imagine to go through the type of loss that Mikael experiences in the film, but I can say that if there was a different actor who played this role there wouldn’t be the same type of emotional weight to this film, and that is a credit to Terry George in casting Issac but also speaks to the talent that Oscar has in any movie that he is in.
I believe that this is a very important story that everyone should know about if they don’t already do, partly because the human struggle is one of the oldest battles in history. Once you see what one person can go through and how they come out to be stronger through that experience, it’s always amazing to see. Once again Terry George has given us another great historical drama that hopefully people will go out and see, there is something for everyone in this movie whether you’re going by yourself, with a family member or a significant other.
Never underestimate the will of a person, especially through tragedy.