SAN ANTONIO – Director Terry George's film "The Promise" is in its essence a love story, but its strength as a film lies in its setting, one that depicts one of the most controversial mass slaughters in history.
The April release takes place during the still hotly debated Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire. In the film, the brilliant medical student, Michael, played by "Star Wars: The Last Jedi star Oscar Isaac, meets local dance instructor Ana, played by French Canadian actress Charlotte Le Bon, in Constantinople just before World War I.
Despite being betrothed to another woman, a shared heritage sparks an instant attraction between Michael and Ana, creating a love triangle that also includes Ana's current boyfriend, played by megawatt actor Christian Bale, an American photojournalist who's dedicated to exposing the truth of the crimes.
As a love the story, the film leaves much to be desired. But the film really picks up in the middle as the protagonist Michael is forced to find his way home after sneaking out of a work camp. A major scene shows Michael coming across a train full of starving Armenians desperate to be freed.
In another, a mother is shot in the head in front of her daughter, and yet a final climatic scene shows an entire town butchered in only minutes, bodies piled beside a river. It is in these moments the film finally hits its mark, showcasing the full-extent of the cruelty.
To this day, despite most scholars acknowledging the massacre as genocide, many Turkish officials still do not. The most basic facts are in dispute -- with Turkey claiming that 500,000 Armenians died of hunger and disease in the Syrian desert, while Armenian survivors and others place the number of dead at 1.5 million.
So despite its mediocre reviews and run-of-the-mill box-office figures, the movie does engage and display in detail this commonly ignored historical event. And by simply recognizing the massacre, this independently financed film succeeds where many others have failed.
The movie is 132 minutes long and is rated PG-13.
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