“THE PROMISE” is a Beautiful and Heart-rending Story of Forgotten History

THE PROMISE from Open Road Films

Masada. The Alamo. The Jewish Holocaust. I studied about these—and other atrocities—in history class. Yet there is one catastrophe that I never heard about; the Armenian Genocide. During World War I, over 1.5 million Turkish Armenians were systematically killed by their government. And few people remember.

THE PROMISE is a beautiful and heart-rending story of forgotten history. 

From Open Road Films and Survival Pictures, THE PROMISE is directed by Terry George. It stars Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale, Daniel Giménez-Cacho, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Rade Sherbedgia. 

THE PROMISE Synopsis

It is 1914. As the Great War looms, the mighty Ottoman Empire is crumbling. Constantinople, the once vibrant, multicultural capital on the shores of the Bosporus, is about to be consumed by chaos. 

Michael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac), arrives in the cosmopolitan hub as a medical student determined to bring modern medicine back to Siroun, his ancestral village in Southern Turkey where Turkish Muslims and Armenian Christians have lived side by side for centuries. 

Photo-journalist Chris Myers (Christian Bale), has come here only partly to cover geo-politics. He is mesmerized by his love for Ana (Charlotte le Bon), an Armenian artist he has accompanied from Paris after the sudden death of her father. 

When Michael meets Ana, their shared Armenian heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between the two men. As the Turks form an alliance with Germany and the Empire turns violently against its own ethnic minorities, their conflicting passions must be deferred while they join forces to survive even as events threaten to overwhelm them. 

Promises are made and promises are broken. 

The one promise that must be kept is to live on and tell the story.

The production values in THE PROMISE were good. It mixed both the beauty and opulence of wealthy Constantinople with the stark horrors of a holocaust.

The acting was strong and believable. Isaacs’ portrayal of Michael Boghosian was fully fleshed; he gave him a nobility and determination in the face of horror and loss. Christian Bale as Myers was smart, savvy, and ultimately sacrificial. Charlotte le Bon presented Ana as a young woman who chose to overcome—and not succumb—to adversities. Shohreh Aghdashloo brought strength and love to her role of Michael’s mother, Marta.

The storyline of THE PROMISE took a while to get started. It used the background stories of multiple characters to set up the history of the people and culture of a that time and region. Once going, however, the story captured my attention. The filmmakers presented the atrocities without overt and gratuitous gore; yet it was still sickening to realize that such unspeakable brutality—which you would expect in a story from ancient times—occurred in a modern 20th century country.

The strength of THE PROMISE is in its message. To never forget. To remember. To tell their story. It is summed up in Ana’s comment; “Our revenge will be to survive.”

With a run time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, THE PROMISE is rated PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality.

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