More than 100 years may have passed since the outbreak of the First World War, but The Promise offers worrying parallels with today’s political landscape, highlighting the damage caused when intolerance rises un-checked. The film admirably tries to balance the plot demands of a love triangle with the weighty drama and real-life horror of a dark chapter in history: the Armenian genocide.
We follow apothecary Mikael (Oscar Isaac) when he leaves his hometown in Armenia, and his betrothed, behind to train as a doctor in Constantinople. But with Europe on the brink of meltdown, his hopes for his career, and a budding romance with French governess Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), are cut off before they can bloom when war breaks out. While vying for Ana’s affections Mikael meets American journalist Chris (a gruff and grandstanding Christian Bale) soon risking his life to bear witness to the atrocities perpetrated during the last days of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey still has yet to recognise the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians as genocide).
Ultimately Oscar Isaac’s performance is a masterclass and carries the film through its soapier moments. Mikael bears witness to the terror of the Armenian genocide through a story that emphasises the indomitable strength of the human spirit. A world away from the X-Men franchise, Isaac’s emotional control and ability to convey a lifetime’s yearning with just one look, mark him out among the best actors of his generation and make any film he stars in worth a watch – including this one.
The Promise is released on April 28th.