The Promise (12A)

Run time: 2h12

Director: Terry George

Cast: Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon, Angela Sarafyan, Tom Hollander, Jean Reno

Synopsis: Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise follows a love triangle between Michael, a brilliant medical student, the beautiful and cultured, Ana and Chris -a renowned American journalist based in Paris.


Director Terry George [In the Name of the Father (1993); Hotel Rwanda (2004) Reservation Road (2007)] has always made socially relevant films and now he has tackled the touchy subject of the Armenian genocide, when in 1915 some 1.5 million Armenians died during a ‘relocation programme’, which Turkey and a very high proportion of countries still do not acknowledge as genocide.

For this reason, The Promise is worth the price of the cinema ticket, with its highlighting of a little explored avenue of history.

Framed as a sweeping period epic with a triangular love story at its heart, the film has a stellar cast, with the charismatic Oscar Isaac [The Two Faces of January (2014); Ex Machina (2014); A Most Violent Year (2014); Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)] as Armenian medical student Michael Boghosian; Christian Bale [The Big Short (2015); American Hustle (2013), Out of the Furnace (2013)], as journalist Chris Myers; and Charlotte Le Bon [Bastille Day (2016);The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014);Yves Saint Laurent (2014)] as Ana Khesarian. The many locations are beautifully shot by cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe and the evocative soundtrack from Gabriel Yared adds authenticity.

It is 1914. As the Great War looms, the once great Ottoman Empire is crumbling. Constantinople, the vibrant, multicultural capital on the shores of the Bosporus, is about to be consumed by chaos. Michael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac), arrives in the cosmopolitan hub as a medical student, determined to bring modern medicine back to Siroun, his ancestral village in Southern Turkey, where Turkish Muslims and Armenian Christians have lived side by side for centuries.

Photo-journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale) has arrived in Europe ostensibly to cover geo-politics, but he is mesmerized by his love for Ana (Charlotte le Bon), an Armenian artist he has accompanied from Paris after the sudden death of her father. When Michael meets Ana, their shared Armenian heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between the two men. As the Turks form an alliance with Germany and the Empire turns violently against its own ethnic minorities, their conflicting passions must be deferred while they join forces to survive as the events of the Great War threaten to overwhelm them.

Touched on in only two recent fiction films, Atom Egoyan’s Ararat (2002) and Fatih Akin’s The Cut (2014), the issue of the Armenian Genocide is honourably dealt with in The Promise, a valuable memorial to the 80% of Armenians who perished as a result of Ottoman wartime policies, as well as a celebration of the lives of those who survived.

Images courtesy of EOne