‘The Promise’ tells the story of the Armenian Genocide, an event in history which I’m now stunned to say that I wasn’t even aware of until seeing this film. However, this is one of the many reasons why film is so valuable, it can serve as an education. Whilst a history lesson might not be everyone’s idea of entertainment I was more than intrigued. Helping to educate audiences would be two of my favourite actors; Oscar Isaac & Christian Bale. This casting was definitely the main reason for my interest.
‘Star Wars’ aside Isaac’s recent films haven’t been great. It’s always a shame to see a favourite actor star in films that don’t match their talent. ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ & ‘Mojave’ would certainly be two examples in Isaac’s case. Whilst I wouldn’t say that ‘The Promise’ is as good as Isaac is, it has given him a leading role with enough material to produce a performance to remind us of why he’s such a talented actor. Portraying Mikael, an Armenian medical student, Isaac is effortlessly watchable and constantly earns the right to be a leading man. Christian Bale has to settle for a supporting role this time round though. His performance here is nothing remarkable, especially when his back catalogue of work is considered. However, he’s so reliable and fulfills his role well, it maybe just wasn’t so challenging for the renowned actor. Nonetheless, he’s a fine addition to the cast and ‘The Promise’ is better for having him. Charlotte Le Bon stars as the token love interest of the piece, although thankfully there is more to her character than just this. It’s easily one of her most likeable roles to date and she had good chemistry with both of her male counterparts. Overall the performances, including the supporting cast, increased the quality of the picture.
As I’ve already briefly mentioned ‘The Promise’ focuses on the Armenian Genocide. This period also included the fall of the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the film I did find it a little challenging to grasp the historical aspects to the narrative. However as the film progressed it did a solid job of making this clear for those with no prior knowledge of this period which was greatly appreciated. If based on true historical events why not just make a documentary though? Well there is something to be said for focusing in on more specific human drama set against the backdrop of grander historical context. The performances and writing present prove this point. There is masses amount of emotion running through this film which really enhance the viewing experience. This drama created a powerful picture that made me feel sympathy, anger and frustration. The film even manages to include a few comical moments alongside the heavy subject matter. These moments are few and far between and they are by no means belly laughs but their inclusion offer a brief contrast in tone. The narrative does run into problems in its final act though. It simultaneously feels drawn out and rushed. The human drama also takes precedent over the historical elements in this section, the only time I felt it not appropriate.
Despite this I still found ‘The Promise’ hugely enjoyable. Maybe I was just easily entertained by the strong performances from two actors whose filmography I follow closely. However, I can’t discount the way in which this film informed me of such a shocking period in history. Told through a compelling story which should provoke emotion with viewers ‘The Promise’ is a slightly flawed but largely successful historical drama.
Rating – 8/10
Question: What is your favourite Oscar Isaac performance?
(Leave your answers in the comments section below!)
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