The Promise: World War I Movie About a Love Triangle and Ethnic Cleansing
In Eastern Turkey in 1914, druggist Mikael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac) is working and living in his half-Armenian/half-Turkish village where Christians and Muslims are living together in peace. However, the ambitious apothecary would rather be a doctor, so he courts and marries a neighbor (Angela Sarafyan), whose family is relatively wealthy, in order to get the dowry.
With the money, he is able to afford medical school. However, while studying in Constantinople, he falls in love with Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), a fellow Armenian who has recently returned from France. Mikael is taken with her beauty and urbane sophistication that she acquired while rowing up in Paris. Unfortunately, Ana has returned accompanied by her lover, Chris Meyers (Christian Bale), an American photojournalist who was assigned by the Associated Press to find evidence of ethnic cleansing.
When World War I erupts, Mikael is forced to flee the Turkish army’s roundup of Armenian civilians and he returns to his hometown to help rescue his relatives and friends. Ana is in a similar struggle to survive and her lover Chris Meyers does his best to take photos that document the slaughter of Armenians that is rumored to be occurring.
The Promise is a riveting documentary drama directed and co-written by Oscar winner Terry George (The Short). The movie bears a strong resemblance to Hotel Rwanda, which George also directed and co-wrote.
Both of his films depict extraordinary heroism in the face of a complete collapse of civilization. If this picture has a flaw, it’s that it appears to trivialize the ethnic cleansing of one and a half million Armenians by making that genocide a backdrop to the love story that is at the center of the movie.
Excellent (***½). Rated PG-13 for mature themes, sexuality, violence, disturbing images, and war atrocities. Running time: 134 minutes. Production Studio: Survival Pictures. Distributor: Open Road Films.