It is estimated that over 1.5 million Armenians were exterminated during the Armenian Genocide which began in 1915. Let that sink in for a moment and ask yourself if you were even aware of it. I’m sorry to say, I was not. The Promise written and directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, The Boxer, In The Name of the Father) from Belfast tells the harrowing tale of how the Ottoman Empire attempted to wipe out the Armenians.
..story of love, loss, tragedy and the will to survive..
Starring Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte LeBon The Promise is a story of love, loss, tragedy and the will to survive. Before promising to marry a local girl in exchange for a dowry to pay his tuition fees, Mikael (Oscar Isaac) leaves his village of Sirun to study medicine in Constantinople where he stays with his wealthy uncle. It’s here he meets Ana (Charlotte LeBon) who is working as a tutor for his uncles children. Over time the two grow close and fall in love despite Ana being involved with Chris Myers (Christian Bale) an American reporter with the Associated Press.
…Hundreds of thousands of Armenians are being slaughtered…
With the outbreak of World War I tensions in Constantinople run high and it’s not long before the men are called for conscription in the Ottoman army. At the same time the Ottoman authorities issue instructions to round-up prominent Armenian businessmen for deportation to Ankara. While trying to save his uncle Mikael is arrested and sent to a labour camp. Ana, devastated at losing Mikael and thinking she will never see him again continues her liaison with Chris and throughout the war she helps at a Red Cross centre while Chris continues to report the atrocities which are unfolding.
Mikael eventually escapes the work camp and returns to Sirun where he follows through on his promise to marry and begins some semblance of life in the mountains. Faith it seems has other plans and as his wife becomes ill while pregnant he must return to Sirun again. Here he learns that Ana and Chris are nearby and once again the three are reunited and locked in a love triangle.
Terry George is not stranger to bringing difficult subject matter to the big screen having previously worked on Some Mother’s Son and Hotel Rwanda. While The Promise may have a love story woven into it, it is also very much a historical account of the inhumane treatment of the Armenian people at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. The sheer devastation of the Armenian race is handled with compassion and sincerity throughout the movie. The Armenian people were subject to mass burnings, drowning, poisoning, mass execution and confiscation of material possessions. The extent of the suffering is horrific and to this day the Turkish government deny much of what happened.
I’m giving The Promise 3.5/5. It’s a compelling and emotional watch with excellent performances from the entire cast. Not only entertaining but educational. Check out the trailer below for a snippet of what to expect.