I have not seen this film yet but here is a review (not mine).
The Promise review – Oscar Isaac tackles Armenian genocide in cliched but involving romance
Hotel Rwanda director Terry George takes on a largely uncovered part of history in this often soapy but well-intentioned and extravagantly mounted epic
xThe Promise Photograph: PR
Tuesday 13 September 2016 11.57 BST
There are many reasons to criticise James Cameron’s record-breaking weepie Titanic but one of the most frustrating reminders of its success lies in Hollywood’s repetitive treatment of historical tragedies ever since. Not that the director invented the formula of placing a love triangle in the middle of adversity, but he showed that it could be extraordinarily profitable – and movies from Pearl Harbor to Pompeii have tried desperately to replicate the package.
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Despite its pedigree – with a top-notch cast and a script by David Hare – this drama about the real-life libel case involving disgraced historian David Irving never comes to life
Hotel Rwanda director Terry George has found himself another devastating, and far less covered, genocide to focus on, but in order to warrant the extravagant scale, a romantic trio has been placed front and centre. The film starts in Armenia in 1914 and follows Michael (Oscar Isaac), a man working in an apothecary, who dreams of becoming a doctor. But to afford the fees, he gets betrothed to a local woman and uses the dowry to go to school in Constantinople. Once he arrives, he quickly falls for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) but – you guessed it – she’s already in a relationship. Her boyfriend is the fiery Chris (Christian Bale), an American journalist reporting on the growing tensions between Turkey andArmenia. As Michael and Ana get closer, war breaks out and the three find themselves in the middle of a terrifying situation.
There’s something rather dusty about The Promise as George pushes his characters through a string of soapy machinations that feel incredibly familiar. But there’s also something rather comfortingly reliable about it as well and, while a tad workmanlike, his solid direction ensures that the drama is mostly involving. It also helps that the Armenian genocide is a relatively unexplored period of history and makes for a horrifying backdrop.
Subtlety isn’t the film’s strong point – with certain lines of dialogue (“I’m going to slaughter everyone on this mountain!”) proving to be hilariously on the nose and Bale forced into some rather hammy scenes of rage. Isaac fares a little better and it’s refreshing at least for his character not to be a natural born fighter (there’s one rather nicely observed scene where he struggles to load a gun) but his chemistry with Le Bon is nonexistent. This proves to be problematic given the film’s focus on romance, and one does wish that there is more context provided to the conflict itself and a wider view of the atrocities taking place.
But rather like Russell Crowe’s similarly creaky directorial debut The Water Diviner last year, there’s something to enjoy about its traditional brand of storytelling, devoid of any irony. There are definitely more interesting and satisfying films to be made about the Armenian genocide and this is never going to become a Titanic-sized success – but it’s a solid, if overly soapy, drama.