The Promise, C
Rated PG-13, 134 minutes
With an intriguing premise, handsome photography and appealing leads, it's hard not to like the new historical drama "The Promise" except for the fact that you may not stay awake through most of it to see it. That's unfortunate, since it deals with an important historical issue, the Armenian Genocide at the turn of the 20th Century, which takes a backseat to the uninvolving love triangle that is the main focus of the film.
Brilliant medical student Michael (Oscar Isaac) meets beautiful dance instructor Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) in late 1914. Their shared Armenian heritage sparks an attraction that explodes into a romantic rivalry between Michael and Ana's boyfriend (Christian Bale), an American photojournalist who's dedicated to exposing the truth. As the Ottoman Empire crumbles into war-torn chaos, their conflicting passions must be deferred as they join forces to get themselves and their people to safety.
Directed by Terry George ("Hotel Rwanda") with a screenplay co-written by George and Robin Swicord ("Memoirs of a Geisha"), the handsome historical love triangle "The Promise" isn't terrible but terribly boring and feeling like an eternity before anything gets going, and before the film is over. The uneven, sluggish film is most hampered by a love triangle that lacks any sense of engagement for its audience.
Most memorable about the epic film are its technical aspects: the beautiful photography from prolific and acclaimed Spanish cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe ("Blue Jasmine") makes the film watchable, while the sets, costumes and music all add some nice texture to the time period of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, which is the backdrop of the film. The film skims the surface, but doesn't really deal in any depth with the Armenian Genocide, which occurred during this time.
For their part, Isaac (who most will recognize from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"), Oscar-winner Bale and French actress Le Bon, a unique French blend of Winona Ryder and Jewel, all try to make it more interesting, but you may have trouble staying awake, especially through the slower-than-molasses middle act.
A handsome yet dull misfire, it's best to skip the unsatisfying "The Promise" and read up on the Ottoman Empire, you'll get much more out of it than this film.