It’s rare to find an American war film today that doesn’t already seem formulaic, mostly because so many American war films draw from the same periods in history. One upcoming film that is setting out to break that mold is The Promise, a film that has been in development since last autumn. An intriguing and stirring trailer for the film has now been released, as you can see above.
The Promise centers on three characters, Michael (Oscar Isaac), Chris (Christian Bale) and Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) during the developing Armenian genocide. Ana, a woman of Armenian descent, finds herself enamored with both Chris, an American, and Michael, a man of Armenian heritage. Things quickly become complicated between the three, as Ana finds herself in danger and Michael and Chris struggle with their own national identities and allegiances. The trailer is as emotional as it is intense, with a charming introduction typical of many period pieces that quickly devolves into gritty representations of war.
For more on the film, you should read the entire official synopsis for The Promise:
It is 1914. As the Great War looms, the vast Ottoman Empire is crumbling. Constantinople (Istanbul), its once vibrant, multicultural capital 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 even as Michael hangs on to a promise from his past.
After the Turks join the war on the German side, the Empire turns violently against its own ethnic minorities. Despite their conflicts, everyone must find a way to survive — even as monumental events envelope their lives.
Bale has gained worldwide recognition for his roles in films spanning many genres (from The Dark Knight to American Hustle), having earned an Oscar for The Fighter. Meanwhile, Isaac is well on his way to becoming a national icon, after his scene-stealing role as Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a breakout performance in Inside Llewyn Davis. Le Bon is less known by comparison, but has charmed audiences in such movies as The Walk and The Hundred-Foot Journey.
On the other side of the camera: The Promise was co-written and directed by Terry George (Hotel Rwanda). In addition, the film was co-wrriten by Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and features cinematography by Javier Aguierresarobe (The Road, Blue Jasmine).
Though the scene seems set for this Spanish-American co-production to be great, it’s unclear how well The Promise will balance its romantic and brutal aspects. The trailer walks a fine line between sincere and schmaltzy, and so far the main female character seems to be little more than a love-interest-turned-damsel-in-distress. Equally perplexing is the decision to cast Le Bon (a French-Canadian actress) and Isaac (a Latino actor) as an woman and man of Armenian heritage, respectively, when the film’s plot revolves so deliberately around national identity.
The Promise could pull off the love-war struggle as gracefully as a film like The Unbearable Lightness of Being, or it could come off as contrite as, say, Pearl Harbor. Either way, with a title like that, producers should surely hope that the picture lives up to its potential.
The Promise does not yet have an official U.S. theatrical release date.
Source: Survival Pictures