The Armenian genocide that took place during WWI shattered a small race of people at the hands of the Turks. A century later, the wounds of this atrocity are still felt around the world, as Turkey refuses to acknowledge what took place. The Promise – a Hollywood budget film with an English director and international cast – aims in some part to bring light to the issue.
Oscar Isaac plays Mikael, a small-town Armenian who moves to Constantinople to attend medical school. While living with his wealthy uncle, he begins to fall for the family nanny Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), who is dating American journalist Chris (Christian Bale). Once the war breaks out, and the Turks begin to use force, Armenians start to fear for their safety amid rising tensions. As Chris attempts to get news of the atrocities out in the press, Mikael ends up on the run, witnessing first-hand the crimes as Armenians are initially interned, before being killed en masse.
The Promise uses a love triangle as a device to present the story of war, but unfortunately it’s predicable. Le Bon’s Ana has a kind of Euro manic pixie dream girl vibe, simply there to buoy the two male characters along. While Bale could play the villain as the token American boyfriend, he brings an understanding to the role that helps keep the romantic plot just outside melodrama territory. But ultimately it’s a tired trope, which waters down the real story underneath.
The film was famously funded by American-Armenian casino billionaire Kirk Kerkorian right before his death, and has attracted some controversy on its release. A slew of negative IMDb reviews have been put down to pro-Turkish politics.
Ultimately, though, we’re dealing with big-budget script and production, and with none of the lead cast or director being even remotely Armenian, this one unfortunately comes off more as a midday soap opera rather than historical epic.
The Promise opens in cinemas on Thursday June 15.