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Review: The Promise

The Promise
04.21.2017
6 10
THE PROMISE was originally reviewed as part of our TIFF 2016 coverage. 

PLOT: In the final days of the Ottoman Empire, an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac) falls in-love with a French-educated Armenian woman (Charlotte Le Bon) who’s the mistress of a cynical American journalist (Christian Bale). Already facing hardship due to his betrothal to another woman, the two soon find themselves caught-up in the horrifying Armenian genocide and on the run for their lives.

REVIEW: Believe it or not, in the hundred years since the Armenian Genocide, which involved the systematic extermination of 1.5 million people, THE PROMISE is the first Hollywood movie to be made on the subject. In fact, to this day the Turkish government denies the genocide ever happened. As such, this is a movie that should have been made long ago about a subject that’s so important one can forgive director Terry George’s decision to make such a deliberately old-fashioned mainstream film.

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Bankrolled by Hollywood heavyweights, Mike Medavoy and Raph Winter, with an executive producer credit for the late Kirk Kerkorian of all people, and a cast-full of stars, THE PROMISE has clearly been made with the intention of reaching the broadest audience possible. If using soapy romance is the way George and co-writer Robin Swicord have decided to put it across, so be it.

Lavishly shot, George has taken a different tact here than he did with the more focused and tightly-coiled HOTEL RWANDA. Telling a broad historical tale that unfolds over several months, George takes his time introducing us to Isaac’s Armenian apothecary, who agrees to an arranged marriage in-order to secure the funds he needs to study medicine in Constantinople. A clear-eyed, heroic type, he has every intention of returning to his kindly fiancee (hence the title), even if he can’t help but fall in-love with the dazzling Charlotte Le Bon, whose French accent (Le Bon is from Quebec) is explained by her having been educated at the Sorbonne.

For much of the running time, romance is emphasized over the genocide, although George does make the time for a few harrowing episodes. One of the most effective is a sequence where Isaac meets a former clown-turned-slave laborer (Tom Hollander in a cameo) who still has the bullet lodged in his head from when the Turkish soldiers tried to execute him. Like in HOTEL RWANDA, the carnage is de-emphasized, with them clearly hoping for a PG-13 rating and a distribution deal that will get this out to the broadest audience possible. The downside is that the movie lacks the power it might have had with a more bold approach.

Nevertheless, they’re aided tremendously by the appealing leads. Isaac has been doing peerless work lately and it’s clear he put a lot of himself into the part, with his acting always convincing, right down to his accent. Le Bon is also very effective, with her part here building nicely on her break-out in THE WALK. She’s able to command attention without being devoured by her co-stars, which says something.

Of them all, the biggest draw is probably Christian Bale, playing a supporting role here as a Hemingway-esque writer who goes from being a dissolute drunk to a hero once coming face-to-face with the evil of the genocide. He’s separated from the leads early-on, with his episodes standing more on their own, and Bale, wearing a beard and carrying extra weight, gives a sturdy, straight-forward performance without any real scenery chewing.

While THE PROMISE is old-fashioned and melodramatic, one can’t really argue with George’s safe approach, as with it taking one-hundred years to finally do a film on the subject, perhaps the clear, easy-route to getting the point across was indeed the right one. It’s a flawed, sometimes cheesy film but the subject it deals with is tremendously important, with the cost to the Armenian people well-conveyed. Given the solid performances by legitimate Hollywood stars and the scope, THE PROMISE accomplishes what it set out to do. This is the rare case when the subject matter and importance of the project trumps any shortcomings in its quality and its hard not to get caught-up in the history and wonder why people don’t talk about the event more. Hopefully it won’t take another hundred years to get another movie made about it.

Source: JoBlo.com

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1:08AM on 04/23/2017
Jeez how many times are they gonna post this review? Nobody cares, the movie has repeatedly been bashed as being a terrible movie, from top to bottom, let it go, just, let it go guys.
Jeez how many times are they gonna post this review? Nobody cares, the movie has repeatedly been bashed as being a terrible movie, from top to bottom, let it go, just, let it go guys.
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9:29AM on 04/22/2017

Looked like garabge since the first trailer dropped

I remember seeing the trailer a long time ago and its just so underwhelming. Everything seems poorly acted and poorly written.
I remember seeing the trailer a long time ago and its just so underwhelming. Everything seems poorly acted and poorly written.
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7:53PM on 04/21/2017
You know, my response that this would be a great companion piece for The Water Diviner should have been clear that it doesn't mean both movies are so similar, but I find it interesting that both tackle the genocide issue from different point of views. Watched back to back (Water Diviner first, then this movie), both movies may shed some more light on the subject of that particular part of history and create a unique perspective to the viewers that may interest them enough to actually find out
You know, my response that this would be a great companion piece for The Water Diviner should have been clear that it doesn't mean both movies are so similar, but I find it interesting that both tackle the genocide issue from different point of views. Watched back to back (Water Diviner first, then this movie), both movies may shed some more light on the subject of that particular part of history and create a unique perspective to the viewers that may interest them enough to actually find out the truth for themselves.
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1:10AM on 04/23/2017
Ive read information to the contrary, and I don't believe the account in this movie is accurate either.
Ive read information to the contrary, and I don't believe the account in this movie is accurate either.
+1
6:12PM on 04/21/2017
I caught this at the local athouse theater last night, I know the reviews have been pretty bad but I'm a huge fan of both Bale and Isaac, so I decided to give it a shot.

It is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad. Like this is to period dramas what Elektra or Catwoman is to superhero films. Really didactic script that force feeds you what to think and is very transparent in its obvious attempts at
I caught this at the local athouse theater last night, I know the reviews have been pretty bad but I'm a huge fan of both Bale and Isaac, so I decided to give it a shot.

It is really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really bad. Like this is to period dramas what Elektra or Catwoman is to superhero films. Really didactic script that force feeds you what to think and is very transparent in its obvious attempts at shameless emotional manipulation. Also some of the worse dialogue I've ever heard Bale say (and he's been able to salvage some pretty crappy dialogue in stuff like Terminator: Salvation). The movie's not a 1/10, and it' probably not a 2/10 but a 4/10 would feel extremely generous.
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+0
3:35PM on 04/21/2017
I've heard rumors this film is set to bomb big time. We'll see what happens, but I think the issue might be that the marketing for this is atrocious. This is the first time I've seen the full trailer for it anywhere. In fact, the majority of trailers I have seen have been :30s on tv, and they are using some god-awful song with the words " My Promise" in it, that makes the viewer think it is one of those faith-based films or Lifetime movies...which are normally horrible. I immediately turned my
I've heard rumors this film is set to bomb big time. We'll see what happens, but I think the issue might be that the marketing for this is atrocious. This is the first time I've seen the full trailer for it anywhere. In fact, the majority of trailers I have seen have been :30s on tv, and they are using some god-awful song with the words " My Promise" in it, that makes the viewer think it is one of those faith-based films or Lifetime movies...which are normally horrible. I immediately turned my attention away from the trailer because of the music they were using. This looks incredibly shot, however, so it is sad that they missed their mark on the way they chose to market it. That being said, another big turn-off for me is the inclusion of Christian Bale. Yes, he's a decent actor, but he's the same in all his movies. I'm just over watching him, unfortunately. I may catch it streaming later in the year, though.
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3:38AM on 03/03/2017

Please no comparison to The Water Deviner

No, please not! – The film The Water Deviner portrays the Turks in the movie as victims, while at the same time Turks were committing the Armenian Genocide. Various film critics described the movie as "a distortion of history that only serves to appease Turkey and its continued agenda of genocide denial." Anthony McAdam of The Spectator wrote: "Leaving aside aesthetic considerations, the fact is the film's lack of any historical context is breathtaking." McAdam notes that there is one "glaring
No, please not! – The film The Water Deviner portrays the Turks in the movie as victims, while at the same time Turks were committing the Armenian Genocide. Various film critics described the movie as "a distortion of history that only serves to appease Turkey and its continued agenda of genocide denial." Anthony McAdam of The Spectator wrote: "Leaving aside aesthetic considerations, the fact is the film's lack of any historical context is breathtaking." McAdam notes that there is one "glaring omission" in the film, that being the lack of any mention of the Armenian Genocide. Andrew O'Hehir of the Salon questions why Crowe and Warner Bros. released the film in the US on 24 April, the same day that Armenians commemorate the Armenian Genocide and compares it to releasing a film which ignores the Jewish Holocaust and is released on Yom HaShoah.
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5:33AM on 09/15/2016
This would make a nice companion movie to The Water Diviner.
This would make a nice companion movie to The Water Diviner.
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3:35AM on 03/03/2017
No, please not! – The film „The Water Deviner“ portrays the Turks in the movie as victims, while at the same time Turks were committing the Armenian Genocide. Various film critics described the movie as "a distortion of history that only serves to appease Turkey and its continued agenda of genocide denial." Anthony McAdam of The Spectator wrote: "Leaving aside aesthetic considerations, the fact is the film's lack of any historical context is breathtaking." McAdam notes that there is one
No, please not! – The film „The Water Deviner“ portrays the Turks in the movie as victims, while at the same time Turks were committing the Armenian Genocide. Various film critics described the movie as "a distortion of history that only serves to appease Turkey and its continued agenda of genocide denial." Anthony McAdam of The Spectator wrote: "Leaving aside aesthetic considerations, the fact is the film's lack of any historical context is breathtaking." McAdam notes that there is one "glaring omission" in the film, that being the lack of any mention of the Armenian Genocide. Andrew O'Hehir of the Salon questions why Crowe and Warner Bros. released the film in the US on 24 April, the same day that Armenians commemorate the Armenian Genocide and compares it to releasing a film which ignores the Jewish Holocaust and is released on Yom HaShoah.
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