'The Promise' Trailer: Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale, A Love Triangle, And The Armenian Genocide

I can't tell if the core premise of The Promise is glibly offensive or admirably old school in a Hollywood Golden Age kind of way. Here's a sweeping, epic romance starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, two of the most recognizable actors on the planet...that happens to be set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide, which saw the brutal deaths of 1.5 million men, women, and children at the hands of Ottoman government in 1915. That could work – movies like Titanic prove that historical tragedy and Hollywood romance can blend under the right circumstances – but the success of The Promise is going to come down to how director Terry George executes this tricky balance.

And The Promise Trailer is here for us to judge.

The Promise follows an Armenian medical student (Isaac) and an American journalist (Bale) who both fall in love with an artist (Charlotte le Bon) while living in Constantinople, only to find their love triangle upended when the government begins deporting, and soon mass-murdering, the Armenian population of Turkey. It's heavy stuff, but George has a history of taking difficult material and transforming it into accessible, Oscar-friendly stories. After all, he directed Hotel Rwanda. Whether that feels like a promise or a threat probably depends on how you view that particular movie.

The Promise Trailer

To be perfectly honest, this trailer doesn't do much for me. It looks like cookie cutter Oscar bait like someone grabbed a template for turning heads during awards season and wrote "Armenian Holocaust" in one of the blanks. The film could be good (reviews out the Toronto International Film Festival have been mixed so far), but the footage in this preview looks like something we've seen before, presented in an all-too-familiar fashion.

The Promise doesn't have a release date yet, but you can probably expect it to arrive in theaters before the year is out so it can qualify for golden statues and such. Here's the official synopsis:

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.