Complete A-Z list

Promise, The


Stars: Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, Charlotte Le Bon, Shohreh Agdashloo, Angela Sarafyan, Tamer Hassan, Aharon Ipalé, James Cromwell, Aaron Neil, Tom Hollander

Director: Terry George

Ponderous at times, but impressive at others, this is a handsomely-mounted account of the displacement and eventual genocide of the Turkish-Armenian people by the country's military during World War One, a period when one and a half million Armenians were randomly slaughtered.

Isaac's Mikael, with an accent perhaps gleaned from Omar Sharif, gets things off to a sticky start with a portentous narration about his home village. But then, promised to a village girl (Sarafyan), he's soon off (funded by his bride-to-be's dowry) to study medicine in Constantinople (now Istanbul).

Here he falls in love with his host's daughter's Paris-educated ballet teacher (Le Bon), despite her being attached to alcoholic foreign correspondent Chris (Bale). But then comes war and the oppression of the Armenians begins. Mikael evades conscription through medical exemption, but not for long. Soon he's slaving in the equivalent of a chain gang. Escaping fortuitously through another's explosive suicide, he sets out to find his wife and family.

It seems that one of Mikael's women must die to bring about a tidy ending, but the film has one or two surprises up its sleeve during an action-filled last 20 minutes when things really gather momentum, as hundreds of Americans attempting to flee by boat are besieged by Turkish forces.

Isaac does what he can with an underwritten role, but the film depends for its impact on the shocking facts, the lavish mounting of its story (largely shot in Malta) and the often painterly images of cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe.

I must have missed Tom Hollander, surprisingly since he was probably the only member of the cast shorter than the hero, while Jean Reno has one line.

...good luck with the Turkish market on this one.

David Quinlan

Spain/USA 2016. UK Distributor: entertainmentOne. Colour (unspecified).
133 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 18.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Apr 2017