Set during the last days of the Ottoman Empire, The Promise focuses on the Armenian Genocide and the Ottoman government’s systematic extermination of 1.5 million Armenians. Alongside the genocide we are given a love story between Mikael (Oscar Isaac) an Armenian Medical Student, Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) an Armenian tutor to Mikael’s cousins, and her American boyfriend Chris (Christian Bale), a renowned journalist. Chris and Ana have a loving but fragile relationship and things aren’t helped when Ana meets Mikael, and when the genocide really starts to get going the bond between Ana and Mikael only grows stronger.
Mikael is a sweet and caring character, who agrees to get engaged to a local girl in order to use the dowry to fund his way through medical school. It’s clear that Mikael wants to help his town as much as he can and by going to medical school he can return fully qualified to help others. It is whilst away at school that he meets and falls in love with Ana. However the full force of the genocide soon hits and Mikael is captured and becomes a prisoner of war, he manages to escape but becomes determined to find his family and Ana again before it’s too late. Oscar Isaac plays Mikael very well, there is a softness to his character which makes him instantly likeable and his emotional turmoil over his love for Ana and his responsibilities to his fiancee back home are clear to see.
Ana is another sweet and caring character, and with the help of Chris becomes determined to look after and rescue Armenian orphans from the genocide. Chris meanwhile is reporting the events back to America, much to the Ottoman Empire’s dislike. Chris is very protective of Ana and is a strong force in the relationship so therefore doesn’t take too kindly to Mikael’s arrival. However attitudes are put aside when events take a turn for the worse and the three characters must work together to help the many in need. Charlotte Le Bon takes on the role of Ana very well, showing her struggle to choose between the two men – without coming across as using them both – and her character easily switches from the gentle tutor to the strong determined woman desperate to help everyone to safety. Christian Bale (Batman in The Dark Knight Rises), gives a good performance as Chris, who risks his life reporting back to America but is determined that the world know what is really happening. Chris is a character that grows on you, his original perception is one of a jealous controlling boyfriend but this changes as the film goes on.
Overall, The Promise is a good film, but as it’s about a genocide it’s not exactly happy..! It’s also over two hours long but unfortunately feels a lot longer, there’s definitely some parts that they could have missed out. There are a lot of twists and turns throughout though and the three main actors all work perfectly together creating likeable and believable characters. I’d recommend it purely for the historical value, it ends with some astonishing facts about the whole event, but unfortunately it’s not one that I would willingly watch again.