Watching movies about the horrors of war in eras bygone are good reminders that the genocides of the past can repeat itself in the future. Whether humanity learns from its mistakes is yet to be seen. Even today there are no formal relations between Armenia and Turkey. To read about the brutality that this movie is based upon, visit Wikipedia.
This production shows a dark side to the Ottoman empire that attempted to eradicate the Armenian population. This movie is apparently released in a timely fashion since April 24 is the annual Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. It’s also showing at only a handful of theaters in my area.
To be upfront, the critics have gotten this one wrong. They seem to be focused upon the love triangle, which is part of the story. However, the underlying message is not only of love between a man a woman but also love of family, ethnicity, and sacrifice. There also appears to be accusations that the movie was “hijacked” by a choreographed effort to make it fail by groups opposed to its release and the bad light it sheds upon the past. To read about it and listen to an interview with the stars on CBS News. CLICK HERE.
Whether historically true or not, I’ll leave to others to determine that point. I can only say that The Promise is a powerful movie that is heartrending on many levels. I left the theater in tears and fight back tears as I write this review.
Christian Bale plays Chris Myers an American correspondent with the Associate Press in Turkey before World War I. He is in love, but not married, to an Armenian woman, Ana, played by Charlotte LeBon. Oscar Isaac plays Mikael Boghosian, a young man who wants to become a doctor. He becomes engaged to Maral and receives enough dowry money to go to Constantinople to medical school but is not in love with her. His promise is to return after two years of school and make her his wife.
When Mikael arrives and begins school, he meets Ana and Chris, her lover. It’s here that he falls in love with her during a period when Ana struggles with some disenchantment over Chris’ behavior and their relationship. It breeds the perfect love triangle, but it is quickly torn asunder by the beginning of World War I and the Turkish government turning against Armenians.
Each of them go their separate ways during these turbulent times with Mikael suffering at the hands of the Turks. Chris Myers continues to report back to the remainder of the world the atrocities he has witnessed against the Armenians. The remainder of the story is the struggle that these three face, along with Mikael’s family and other Armenians who are slaughtered or fleeing for their lives. The movie ends on a very bittersweet note and by this time who gets the girl is an irrelevant point.
Oscar Isaac’s acting was superb throughout the movie as much of Mikael’s life is the main focus. Chris Myers’ character is not as likable but redeemable at the end as he puts his life on the line to save others. Of particular interest, were the small parts of important stars who showed up in this movie. Tom Hollander plays another prisoner of hard labor for a few short scenes. James Cromwell also appears for a short stint at the end as an US Ambassador. With only a few lines each, I thought it interesting that they decided to play in this feature.
Is the movie sad? Yes. Is the movie worth seeing? Yes. Why, you ask me, should you torture yourself? Because we need to remember that history contains more stories that many of us are not aware of in our lifetime. I was unaware of this part of history, which always leaves me wondering if, as a species on this planet earth, we will ever stop killing each other just because our neighbors are different in religion, color, or ethnic race.
The sad part of these genocides in history is that they are often swept under a rug, forgotten as years go by, denied altogether, and not considered relevant in spite of millions of innocent men, women, and children who were slaughtered just because they lived. Another interesting article on the subject raises the question – is the true story too disturbing to acknowledge?
Ana, aptly states toward the end of the movie, “Our revenge will be to survive.” And the Armenians have survived as well as a few in this movie.
Another note, 100% of the proceeds of this film are going toward charity, which is commendable, to say the least.