If you’ve ever wondered what Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor might be like without the whiz-bang explosions but with a similar dull love story, The Promise may be the picture for you. As if the Armenian Genocide isn’t weighty enough to sustain 133 minutes, writers Terry George and Robin Swicord give us a loudmouth American journalist (Christian Bale), a feckless Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac) and a beautiful-and-that’s-her-only-character-trait Armenian tutor (Charlotte Le Bon), stick them in a yawn-worthy love triangle, then send them into the quagmire of the screenplay’s by-the-numbers scenes of PG-13 torture and mayhem. It’s impossible not to be moved by image upon image of agony inflicted upon Armenian children and the elderly, but genocide doesn’t need context; it’s genocide. And it’s a good thing—in movies, that is—genocide can move an audience without context, because if you’re looking for a history lesson, ya ain’t gonna find it here. Bale and Isaac acquit themselves well, but that’s a testament to their acting skills, not George’s tepid direction. You’d think with Hotel Rwanda under his belt, he’d be more skilled at depicting human suffering.
Director: Terry George
Producer: Eric Esrailian, Mike Medavoy, William Horberg, Kirk Kerkorian, Ralph Winter, Denise O'Dell, Mark Albela, Anthony Mandekic, Patricia Glaser, Dan Taylor and Sheri Sani
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon, Christian Bale, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Marwan Kenzari, Angela Sarafyan, Rade Serbedzija, Igal Naor, Numan Acar, Milene Mayer, Tamer Hassan, Jean Reno and James Cromwell