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Charlotte Le Bon and Oscar Isaac in The Promise.©joseharo

Sweeping historical romance epics. Who doesn't love them? Casablanca, Doctor Zhivago, Reds, The Year of Living Dangerously – there's nothing sexier than a love that defies urgent current events.

The catastrophe of contemporary cinema is that our only epics come clad in spandex. Writer-director Terry George (Hotel Rwanda, Reservation Road) is hoping to change that here. His backdrop is a worthy one: the Armenian genocide of 1915, when Turkey tried to wipe a nation from the face of the Earth. His love triangle is promising: an American journalist (Christian Bale) and an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac) fall desperately in love with the same woman (Quebec actress Charlotte Le Bon). Bale and Isaac even have fantasy-franchise cred (Batman and Star Wars, respectively). But their noble intentions can't disguise their epic failure: The love story fails to ignite.

No disrespect to Le Bon, who is pleasant enough, but this kind of part should be a career-definer. Where is today's Ingrid Bergman, Julie Christie or Diane Keaton? Blame those damned superhero pics, which, in appealing only to adolescent boys, have cost us a generation of actresses.

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