Sunday, 30 April 2017
REVIEW: THE PROMISE
In The Name Of Armenia.
134 Mins. Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte La Bon, Christian Bale, Marwan Kenzari, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Angela Sarafyan, Rade Serbedzija, Tom Hollander, Jean Reno & James Cromwell. Director: Terry George.
Promises are broken all the time. In love, life and the politics of both. But one that will always be kept is the vow between Armenians to keep their people and their way of life alive, no matter what. Even in the face of extermination at the hands of pure evil. After the systematic genocide of 1.5 million of their Christian people in the Armenian Holacaust between 1915 and 1923 by the Muslim Ottoman government that the Turkish goverment still to this day unbelievably and shamefully refuses to acknowledge happened. Despite it remaining one of histories darkest times and empires like the Nazis in World War II or ISIS today. All you need to do is read the Christian Bale's quote about turning on the news to see sadly how important this issue is today. His face when his character is told there's no war here says it all with no words. All for the millions of people who died in an begging belief effort to wipe a race of people off the face of this earth that still many (including this writer before the film) know little, or nothing at all about. But as this films epic, emotionally evoking trailers say, "Empires fall. Love survives!" And for years this movie couldn't get off the ground. Simply because people tried to stop it being made. But like surviving oppression this is a story that needs to be told and heard. Even if critics seem to be trying to put an end to it too. But why are they turning their nose up at powerful movies of great importance? Sure Marvel's hugely popular 'Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2' sequel is out this week in blockbuster season. But this is a history lesson we all need to learn from Batman and 'X-Men: Apocalypse' star Oscar Isaac. Who like his wonderful 'A Most Violent Year' co-star Jessica Chastain-in the inspirational in the face of ignorant hate 'The Zookeepers Wife'-is starring in a critical piece of cinema right now that we should all see. No matter how hard it is to watch. As Daniel Day-Lewis' 'In The Name Of The Father' director Terry George-who brought the best out of himself and Marvel Avenging War Marchine, Don Cheadle in the harrowingly raw 'Hotel Rwanda'-brings us a love triangle to rival the forces at work in 'Allied' of 'Doctor Zhivago' sized proportions.
Oscar may be short of one. But Isaac's ways confirm the Academy actor as the best working one today not named Leonardo DiCaprio. The 'Inside Llewyn Davis' breakout star, who has already won a Golden Globe for his Springsteen-collared 'Show Me A Hero' HBO mini-series is so versatile he could one day play the Boss himself in a Bruce biopic. But here in a film that shares a name with one of the most underrated classic tracks off E Street, Isaac vows to show us his other worldly talents. The leading man who can look like both Al Pacino and Andy Garcia, all at the same time has already won over the cult sci-fi crowd, from the indie (the excellent 'Ex Machina') to the blockbuster mainsteam massive movie masses (his Poe pilot in the new 'Star Wars' trilogy alongside Domnhall Gleeson) can play across a wide range of cultures. Isaac of Guatemalan-American descent has played European, Egyptian, Polish, English, French, Mexican, East Timorese, Italian, Welsh, Indonesian, Greek, Cuban and Israelian people in his pictures. And now before he works on a George Clooney Cohen picture with Matt Damon and Josh Brolin, 'Annihilation' and 'Life Itself' he plays an Armenian with the weight of his people on his shoulders and heavy heart. It's an accented performance in all ways that isn't wasted like his mutant 'Apocalypse'. And is quite simply the stirring soul of this compelling look of the heart of hope surviving in the most cruellest of circumstance. You can hear it in the determination of his voice, glaring down fear as he says, "I have to get us out of here before it's too late". Showing love in the eyes of hate alongside 'Yves Saint Laurent' and 'The Walk' star Charlotte La Bon who is one 'Chocolat' like movie away from being the next Juliette Binoche. Brilliant here, La Bon is so good at bringing the beauty of love to screen, all so subtely. Torn between war and two men she shows the pain and not shame of a heart that yearns for someone else and the strength of mind that reaches for a life that will no longer be lived in any type of oppression. It's the kind of performance that puncutates scripts and roles that will keep rolling her way as more and more red carpets will be laid out with the big parts she's set to play. But this is a million miles away from the fake gloss of Hollywood and Charlotte stings like a hornet any notion that this movie is just a pretty postcard of love with a brutal backdrop. The heart of matters shows what keeps us going in war, but the raw soul reveals what really lies within each of us. Survival. And that as La Bon says will be their revenge.
Christian Bale also offers a spirited performance as a member of the Associated Press whose passion is journalism, but one that doesn't take him away from the love of his partner. Even if his necessity to report on the war and bring this story to the public awareness of attention and action risks the loss of his life and everything he loves. No third wheel, it's a part of real spine and the deepest chambers of heart from a man who won't just walk with oppressed people who others would simply turn a cheek from, but a man who will also stand next to the woman he loves and the man who loves her back all for the greater good. And the yearn for both love and life to make it. A bearded Bale who recently impressed in 'The Big Short' and 'American Hustle' goes from the money to take stock and risk of what really matters. 'The Dark Knight' star hasn't stretched to the limits this much since the 'American Psycho' starved his body and soul for the scrawn of 'The Machinist' and the bone knuckle punch of 'The Fighter'. It takes a real man to watch and help the woman he loves fall for the desires of another man, but Christian handles it with beautiful and faithful forgivness, hiding behind a tempered anger of acceptance purely put into his work. Each cast member brings so much more of themselves to this. Promising 'Collide' and 'Wolf' breakout actor Marwan Kenzari is a helping hand as a friend who behind the fun will do anything to assist. Whilst the recognisable voice of 'The Lake House' and 'Star Trek-Beyond' crew member Shohreh Aghdashloo is moving as Oscar's mother. Meanwhile the eyes of 'Westworld' and 'Twilight' star and actual Armenian actress Angela Sarafyan plays an enchanting bride of Isaac and 'Mission Impossible 2' and 'X-Men: First Class' actor of distinction Rade Serbedzija leads one hell of a revolution to pay for. Versatile British actor Tom Hollander (who we most recently saw impress in Tom Hardy's 'Taboo' for the BBC) also brings raw resistance. And there are classy cameos from 'Leon' legend Jean Reno as a French general and 'L.A. Confidential' great James Cromwell popping up as an American Jew more than sympathetic to the cause, inbetween his dedication and service to the Vatican alongside Jude Law's 'Young Pope'. 'The Promise' delivers an incredible mix of people that show just how much this life and world is worth. As Terry George brings us a film that mixes elements of 'The English Patient' and '12 Years A Slave' to show us today just how it really was as we relate to the characters portraying real people here in so many ways. One heartbreaking scene here as movingly haunting in its horror as the roadside one in 'Hotel Rwanda' by the stream of a lake will stay with you like the current. It's something sinister but still so necessary to see, especially with everything that stills go on today. Something you will not forget in a hurry and should always remember all for what it means. Say you will? As amazingly 100% of the proceeds of this powerful movie go to profit only charity. These people deserve your time and thoughts. And this is a promise we should always keep. TIM DAVID HARVEY.
See This If You Liked: 'Hotel Rwanda', 'Allied', 'The Zookeepers Wife'.