The Promise (2016)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) Interestingly enough, nearly everything I know about the Armenian genocide has been because of attempts to deny it. In early 1994, for instance, the antics of “Serdar Argic” in flood-posting Usenet newsgroups with genocide-denying messages gave pre-web users a reason for a crash course in unpleasant Turkish history. Twenty-five years later, Turkish nationalists took it upon themselves to give one-star IMDB votes to The Promise, a film dramatizing the Armenian genocide. But here’s the thing: I base part of my essential viewing choices on the list of movies with the most votes … meaning that I likely would not have watched the film had it not been from the vote-stuffing attempt. Well done, genocide deniers—you denied yourselves. As it stands, The Promise is an effective dramatization of dramatic historical events, wrapped up in a generous wrapping of romance and personal drama. The film’s star power is good enough to be worth a watch by itself: Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale are known as intense actors, and while the film doesn’t quite fully exploit their acting talent, they do lend a lot of credibility to a film that seems content to run by the usual melodrama. A touch too long, a touch too predictable and a touch less satisfying than it should be, The Promise is run-of-the-mill historical drama filmmaking. It wouldn’t be particularly memorable, except as a reminder of the Armenian genocide and the attempts to silence it from history. 

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