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The Promise: A historical romance that fails to ignite

Charlotte Le Bon and Oscar Isaac in The Promise.


2.5 out of 4 stars

The Promise
Written by
Terry George and Robin Swicord
Directed by
Terry George
Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon

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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