This historical melodrama, set in Turkey at the end of the Ottoman Empire and the start of the Great War, sets a love triangle against the horrors of civilians caught up in armed conflict as the Turks turn against the Armenians. Our players, who meet in Istanbul, are the sensitive young Armenian medical student Mikael (Oscar Isaac), a lively Armenian teacher named Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) and her sort-of boyfriend, the American journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale).
This is a similar plot to the recently released The Ottoman Lieutenant, though The Promise is the better film all around, with superior actors, story and production values, and a clearer historical perspective on the Armenian genocide. The Promise is directed by Terry George, who also helmed Hotel Rwanda, and it’s a solid effort. There is something perfunctory and old-fashioned about the love-triangle element, which creates artificial emotional tension, right up through the last reel. But fans of the tragic war-romance genre should find this engaging, despite its predictability, and Isaac delivers another soulful performance.