An Armenian apothecary, Mikael (Oscar Isaac), is helping the people of his small town cure their ailments, but all he aspires to be is a practising doctor. He devises a plan to become engaged to a woman (Angela Sarafyan), and use the dowry he earns to travel to Turkey and attend the expensive medical school that he would be otherwise unable to afford.
Journeying to Constantinople, Mikael moves in with his uncle and his family, whose daughters are being tutored by Ana (Charlotte Le Bon). Ana is currently seeing Chris Myers (Christian Bale), an American Associated Press journalist covering the events of the First World War as they unfold in Europe.
While at school, Mikael befriends local Turk Emre, and the two of them end up running into Chris and Ana one night. The four become good friends, and Mikael, while living with Ana, becomes gradually closer to her – but isn’t he destined to be with someone back home? What follows sees Mikael struggling to reconcile his alliances, and trying to keep himself and those he loves safe in the midst of the Turkish takeover.
Set among the turmoil and gut-wrenching horror of the Armenian Genocide, The Promise must be commended for raising awareness of the disaster and paying tribute to the millions of lives affected by the war. While many died in WWI, the genocide of the Armenian people is something that, to this day, many remain blissfully ignorant – the Turkish government themselves have still not taken responsibility.
Thankfully, Oscar Isaac is more Force Awakens than Apocalypse this time around, and Christian Bale is less convincing as a journo than as the Batman – rugged facial hair notwithstanding, he does an adequate job. Despite being a slightly unconvincing love triangle – Chris has no role to play in Mikael and Ana’s world – the film’s focus on the war and wrongdoings is a distraction that serves to propel the plot as well as provide a documentary for the obsolete. It’s a real, heavy perspective.
In cinemas: June 15, 2017
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale
Directed by: Terry George