When I was a boy in 6th Grade, I at least liked the IDEA of reading new and interesting books. That is not to say that I do not STILL, but the experience was different in those days. I once came across a book which was written by an author I was somewhat familiar with. The title of this book that I discovered was “The Promise.” I am only making this reference because it happens to be a shared title. Factually speaking, there is no connection between THAT “The Promise” and THIS “The Promise.” Forgive me if you think you would like to have your last few moments of life back.

So, there is a man by the name of Terry George. You might remember him best from his Oscar-nominated work in 1993’s “In the Name of the Father.” He was also nominated for the film “Hotel Rwanda” (2004). Although George has directed in the movie business before, it has been several years since his PREVIOUS trip to the big chair.

“The Promise” is inspired by the true events of the Armenian genocide, during the “war to end all wars,” which is World War I. Some controversy has already sprung, showing itself in the critical reviews around the world. Some STILL deny that this supposed genocide ever actually occurred and THOSE people are unhappy with the factual assumptions that abound in this film. Let it be known that the Armenians, themselves, have been praising the accurate, historical efforts which the movie-makers have sought, even borrowing from sources such as “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.” This was a book written Franz Werfel.

Oscar Isaac (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) is Mikael, an Armenian medical student, studying in the great city of Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire until 1923. Upon his arrival, he befriends three very important people, including Ana (played by Charlotte Le Bon, “Inside Out”) and Chris Myers (played by Christian Bale, “The Big Short”). The three of them form a unique bond, with Ana at the center of it all, as the other two share passion and love for the same woman. It remains intact throughout the entire story. 

When war breaks out across the land they all inhabit, Myers plans to take Ana with him, back to America. However, Ana wishes to remain among her people, in spite of the treasonous accusations being spewed by the Turks in the region, towards the Armenians. Myers then decides to remain at Ana’s side, continuing his professional services as a world-renowned journalist. The closer Mikael and Ana become, romantically, the deeper they both become involved in the terror and the violence plaguing their people in droves.

As the plot evolves, Myers and Ana separate from Mikael, but the film gives almost equal time to all of them, though the primary focus is on Mikael. He experiences the unique characteristics of those whom he suffers with and I found myself really connecting on an emotional level with Isaac’s performance. THIS connection stimulated great and powerful empathetic emotions from ME, as a favorable response.

Throughout the movie, there were wonderful examples of the human condition, coming from multiple walks of life. You can see the importance of faith in God, as well as in those around you, whether it be a gentle stranger or a friend who happens to co-exist from the opposing people of the land. There is incredible strength in numbers, particularly when they add up to one, common plight. While we often take for granted what we enjoy in the USA, today, it is easy to predict that a hundred years ago our past generations were, perhaps, more grateful for what they had. They could see the faces of those affected in other parts of the world, NOT by easy access to technology, but THROUGH the one-on-one interactions they experienced WITH the survivors once they were able to reach their intended destinations, seeking freedom from death, at the hands of their enemies.

In some ways, the world has not changed all that much, but if WE can truly learn from our past encounters, maybe we can prevent the same mistakes in the future. So far, it seems that we cannot and perhaps we never will. Unfortunately, while we as humans can receive grace in our hearts, we CAN, also, STILL possess much darker qualities, which not only affect our most immediate dwellers, but those from a greater distance. If you can, please allow yourself to look at “The Promise” with objective eyes. Once you connect with one or more of the powerful performances, within the story, you SHOULD leave with a relatable reaction. This film is more than just pro-America. It is pro-people.

 

Director: Terry George
Screenwriters: Terry George and Robin Swicord
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale, Daniel Gimenez Cacho as Father Andreasian, Shohreh Aghdashloo as Marta and Rade Serbedzija as Stephan
Music: Gabriel Yared
Distributor: Open Road Films
Release: April 21st, 2017

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