*** WARNING: SPOILERS***
The Promise is a film that I have been following for several months. I have seen it advertised frequently on Facebook and Youtube and it has been making the news for being the first major film to tackle the Armenian Genocide, a subject which is still sensitive today. At first, I was hesitant as to whether or not I wanted to see the movie. The plot centers around a love triangle, a plot device which is overused and often annoying. But then I decided, why not give it a shot and told my mom that we would go see it for Mother’s Day since we both love historical dramas.
Oscar Isaac (known to many as Poe Dameron from Star Wars: The Force Awakens) stars as Mikael, an Armenian man who travels to Constantinople to attend medical school on the eve of World War I. There he meets Ana ( Charlotte Le Bon), a beautiful young woman who works for his wealthy relatives as the dancing instructor for their daughters and a fellow Armenian though brought up and educated in France. Mikael and Ana fall in love despite him being engaged to girl in his home village and her already being with an American journalist named Chris, played by Christian Bale. I have had a crush on Christian Bale since I was a little girl and Oscar Isaac is not bad looking either, so I cannot blame Ana that much for being conflicted as to which man she wants to be with.
Turkey enters World War I and things become hostile for Armenians like Ana and Mikael. The film does not shy away from depicting the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide. Mikael is sent away to a work camp, from where he later escapes. There is a heart racing scene where he tries to release some Armenian prisoners from a moving train, which chugs over a bridge. Poor Mikael falls from the train and into the water below before he can undo the lock on the train car. He finds his way back to his home village, where he marries his fiancee and lives happily for a while until he reconnects with Ana and Chris, who are involved with getting refugees out of Turkey. Mikael enlists them to help him and his family escape, but his feelings for Ana causes some tension between him and Chris.
One of the themes of the story is how the Turkish authorities is tried to cover up the truth about the Armenian Genocide. Chris is constantly thwarted in his attempts to expose the truth and is later arrested under suspicion of being a spy and saboteur and sentenced to be executed. Even today, few people know about the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish government refuses to acknowledge or apologize for it, and there are some who deny that it ever happened. As we walked out, my mom told me that she felt embarrassed that she did not know much about this period of history.
The Promise feels, at first, like a fairly predictable story. I assumed that one of the men would die and the other would end up with the girl. When Mikael’s pregnant wife is killed by the Turks, along with most of his family, and thought that Chris would be executed and, now freed from their inconvenient partners, Ana and Mikael would finally be able to be together. But the American ambassador manages to get Chris a pardon. I thought that he might end up being killed during the final battle scene, where are three heros and the group of refugees try to escape into life boats provided by the French Navy. The sea is choppy and Ana’s life boats tips over and she drowns before Mikael can rescue her, which came as a shock.
I would recommend seeing The Promise, if only to learn about an unfairly obscure historical event. It is also well acted and beautifully shot. Whether you like battle scenes or romance and pretty dresses, you will enjoy it.