Yet another good movie that could’ve been fantastic if it didn’t lose focus about halfway through the movie. THE PROMISE is better than official critics are saying it is, but with a film about the last days of the Ottoman Empire and the mass genocide of Armenian people by the Turkish government…did we really need a love triangle at the heart of the film?
That seems like the easy way out. Can’t a screenwriting write a compelling film about one man or maybe a family or a couple of strangers trying to survive the mass Armenian genocide? I mean, do we really need a love triangle, and a predictable one at that. Before the movie even started, I said to my self, “So and so will end up surviving and so and so will end up dying so that way the movie doesn’t seem ‘too predictable’ when in actuality we are so used to the predictable ending that the new non-predictable is now predictable. That sounds confusing but play my little game of who you think lives and dies by the end of the film and if you end up being right you will know what I am talking about.
But some of this film is really magnificent, and just like The Lost City of Z, it’s great when it is focusing on the devastation of the Armenian people trying to escape the Turkish government. The stakes are high, the cinematography is incredible, and the pace is perfect. But when Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, and Christian Bale go into that “staring contest” on who will ultimately win the girls heart, the film almost comes to a screeching halt. I just didn’t care about their love.
I did however care about the characters, because another great thing this film has is it’s acting, even though Christian Bale is extremely underused. But Oscar Isaac, like always, is masterful. I cared about his character as an individual and when his plight was on his family and trying to get them out, the film broke barriers and was winning me over. When he was escaping after being caught by the Turkish government, I was leaning forward in my seat hoping and praying he would get out through the almost impossible odds. But then it goes back to the love triangle, and I ended up not caring. Just like The Lost City of Z review, when it was in the jungle, it was fantastic, when it went back to the mainland, I didn’t give a shit.
And also just like Unforgettable, the title on this sucks. The Promise is basically named what it is because Isaac’s character, to be able to go to medical school, promises this girl’s family that he is going to marry her in order to get their money in advance. And then he falls in love with someone else (doesn’t this happen to much). And even though he falls in love, he “promised” this girl he would marry her. And this conundrum, in this two hour and 20 minute film, maybe lasts 5 minutes. It should’ve been called The Ottoman Triangle or something a bit smarter. But whatever.
So this movie is actually half way decent, but in my head I saw a better movie between the cracks, and makes me wish someone would actually write and direct it to get it made. I’ll probably never watch this movie again because the slow parts are so slow, but I would say you need to watch this movie at least once because the end of The Ottoman Empire is a important historical event that more people should know and care about. It even says to this day the Turkish government denies this ever happens! Shocking, but it’s also shocking that this movie wasn’t as good as it could be.