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posted: 4/20/2017 6:00 AM

Characters get lost in distanced historical epic 'The Promise'

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  • Video: "The Promise" trailer

  • A would-be doctor (Oscar Isaac) and a tutor (Charlotte Le Bon) fall in love against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide in "The Promise."

    A would-be doctor (Oscar Isaac) and a tutor (Charlotte Le Bon) fall in love against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide in "The Promise."


Terry George's distanced historical drama "The Promise" falls so much in love with its own epic grandness that its dramatic heart gets lost among sweeping vistas and endless parades of violent confrontations, tearful reunions and tearful goodbyes, all accompanied by the somber strings of Gabriel Yared's torpid score.

"The Promise" depicts a standard-issue love triangle set against the 1915-1917 Armenian genocide, the Ottoman government's extermination of 1.5 million Armenians.

Young Armenian Mikael Boghosian (Oscar Isaac) narrates the story before setting out in 1914 to become a doctor. He agrees to marry Maral (Angela Sarafyan), daughter of a wealthy citizen, to gain a dowry he can use to pay for his medical training.

Mikael promises his mom (the always watchable Shohreh Aghdashloo) he will grow to love Maral.

But once in the big city of Constantinople, Mikael instantly falls for Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), a French-accented tutor for his uncle's family. Ana, however, has a thing going with a fearless Associated Press journalist named Chris Myers (Christian Bale), who relentlessly reports on the Turks' increasingly hostile treatment of the Christian minority Armenians.

The late Armenian philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian originally financed this production to be an epic depiction of the 20th century's first genocide. Despite a good cast and impressive production design, the movie seldom sparks to life, even with Ana leading an orphan singalong reminiscent of Julie Andrews teaching children "Do Re Mi."

Granted, a sanitized PG-13 movie can't capture the true horrors of the Armenian experience. Yet, the PG-13-rated historical epic about the Warsaw ghetto, "The Zookeeper's Wife," packs far more visceral urgency by being far less epic, and far more personal, in scope.

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