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  • Shanley McConnell

A Friday Film: The Promise.

Updated: Feb 24

Cinematic Reviews: The Promise, directed by Terry George (2016).



Armenia is dying, but it will survive. The little blood that it still has left is precious blood that will give birth to a heroic generation. A nation that does not want to die, does not die.  - Anatole France, 1916.


In 1915, leaders of the Turkish Empire combined forces, created fear. Shrouded by the devastation of World War One, the Turks destroyed the lives of over two-million Armenians. Death plagued the Ottoman Empire. This genocide, this atrocity, is unacknowledged by the Turkish government, but it is a historical tragedy that deserves not only attention, but a reverence - a response.


Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Terry George, The Promise addresses the Armenian people in that heart-wrenchingheart-crying way. With definition and intent, the cinematography of The Promise not only creates intimacy between character and the viewer, but also between scenes of atrocity and hope within the narrative. This period drama, centered around the massacre of Christian Armenians in 1915, has been executed in a way that reaches out and holds us close in its grasp throughout the screening.


The film focuses on the lives of Michael (Oscar Isaac), a man pursuing medicine professionally, Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), and American journalist, Chris (Christian Bale). The romantic trio carry The Promise to the end, through both wars. One of physical brutality and chaos, the other, an internal conflict of passion, love, and promises.


Amidst the tangled, triangle of heart-affairs, all Armenia finds itself flung into the fight for survival. Had the film prioritizes historical relevance rather than roman reference, it may have come across far more personal; and yet, the diversion nonetheless enabled viewers to process the underlying message. These three characters add a face to the millions of refugees today, as they seek rescue from persecution around the world. At the Red Carpet Premier in Los Angeles, the actor who portrays American reporter Chris expounded upon this:


You only have to look at the news to see sadly how relevant this story still is. - Christian Bale.

Decades after the Armenian Genocide, we are watching men, woman, and children - people under siege in the same mountains and drowning in the same Mediterranean. Every day. We are watching, and we are appalled.


This film is another call to action, just as it raises awareness to the scale of atrocity that plagued the Armenian people. Then, and now.


Oscar Issac embodies the weight of his Armenian protagonist, suffering the full extent of the genocide, living and losing love over and again. Christian Bale, as Chris, transforms his character from the drunkard clashing cultures to the dedicated journalist suffering alongside fellow soldiers. Alongside these performances, the screenplay and stellar CGI combined offer a compelling story in dire need of an audience.

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