The film relies on the central performance from Oscar Isaac. He is simply amazing
Before The Promise had even been released, it had thousands of ratings on IMDB, the majority being ten or one. It is presumed that the one star ratings came from Armenian Genocide deniers, whilst the ten star ratings came from an Armenian response. The political background is highly controversial, but the most important element is that this story is finally being told.
The Promise documents the story of the Turkish genocide of the Armenian race during the First World War. Mikael (Oscar Isaac) is an Armenian national living as an apothecary in a small Turkish village. He promises to marry a local woman, and uses the alimony to travel to Constantinople and start his journey towards becoming a doctor. In the city he meets Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) and her American journalist boyfriend, Chris Myers (Christian Bale). When the riots begin, Mikael is captured and forced into a work camp while Ana flees the city. Myers takes it upon himself to alert the world to the Turk’s monstrous actions.
The film relies on the central performance from Oscar Isaac. He is simply amazing. There is a sense of wonder and naivity about Mikael before he is captured and Isaac turns this on its head when Mikael is forced into survival. There is a real understanding of what the Armenians were going through, and Isaac portrays this both personally and cinematically.
The actual film however is less accomplished. There is certainly a dip in the middle with slow pacing, and a shorter run time or a cleaner edit could have solved this problem. There is a lot of good content but it needs to be searched for. Director Terry George has history of successfully screening difficult issues like Hotel Rwanda, and that comes across in the sensitive nature of the film making. Le Bon supplies a great supporting role as and same goes for Bale, however he is not quite up to the high standards he usually puts out. Myers feels strikingly close to the way Bale played Bruce Wayne, making it more straight faced than was needed.
It is a well directed epic with a strong beginning and a strong end. It does lose its way and the love story perhaps removes some focus from the issue at hand, but then it would have become a brutal and harrowing watch, which would not have complimented the humanity Isaac brings to the film. It’s generously flowing and it does a respectful job of telling the story of all of the Armenians who lost their lives during the First World War.