Director: Terry George
Cast: Christian Bale, Osacar Isaac, Charlotte Le Bon
Runtime: 2 hrs 13 mins
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 29 June 2017
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.
This columnist usually injects some humour into this writing, no matter how small the dose may be. However, for this historical drama film, he can only think of starting the review by saying: Poe Dameron meets Batman. You see, the epic movie starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale is so serious, it would be inappropriate to crack any jokes about it.
Billed as the fist big budget mainstream production to depict the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Turkish government in the First World War, the 133 minute movie shows how the Armenians, a Christian minority, were systematically exterminated. The number of victims? A staggering 1.5 million.
While we have seen other horrifying retelling of genocides on film (1984’s The Killing Fields, 1993’s Schindler’s List, 2006’s The Last King of Scotland), this lavish production will allow a wide audience learn about a piece of history that happened more than 100 years ago.
The fictional story arc that is set in 1914 sees an Armenian medical student (a charismatic Oscar Isaac) developing a relationship with an Armenian born woman raised in France (Charlotte Le Bon). A love triangle forms when an American journalist (Christian Bale) based in Pariscomes into the picture. One dramatic event unfolds after another, leading up to the Armenian Genocide.
Director Terry George is no stranger to this genre – he helmed 2004’s Hotel Rwanda based on the Rwandan Genocide which happened in 1994. For his latest work, he has a competent cast to work with.
Isaac continues to impress with his screen presence after wowing the world with his roles in Inside Llewyn Davis (2013), A Most Violent Year (2014), Ex Machina (2015) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). The Guatemalan American actor is capable of carrying both independent and blockbuster titles, making him one of the most versatile actors today. Watch out for the heartwrenching scene where he finds his fellow villagers piled like rubbish by a river – the sudden rush of grief stings like a bee.
Le Bon (The Hundred Foot Journey, The Walk) does a decent job as the female protagonist of the sweeping movie, while Bale (American Hustle, The Big Short) gets to exercise his acting chops. Other familiar faces you may spot are Jean Reno (Hector and the Search for Happiness), Tom Hollander (TV’s The Night Manager) and James Cromwell (Big Hero 6).
Stretching over two hours, the less patient viewer may find the pace of the movie staggering. The film neatly transits from one segment to another. While things are predictable, you also feel the emotions of the characters going through the tragic events. Some may conveniently regard this a the filmmakers’ attempt to manipulate audiences, but it works well here.
Unfortunately, the film is a box office failure with a gross of $8.2 million against its $90 million production budget. However, if the project’s intention was to bring awareness to this issue, then it has adequately done its job as numerous celebrities like Sir Elton John, Barbara Streisand and Leonardo DiCaprio’s positive remarks for the movie.
(Despite the formulaic approach, this is a historical drama film worth your time)
Review by John Li