Eastern Promises

2008-04-23 11:07
What it's about:

After a pregnant Russian teenager dies on the operating table, midwife Anna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) manages to save the baby and discovers the dead mother's diary. Anna has the diary translated in an attempt to reunite the baby with its family, and soon finds herself trapped in the violent web of the local Russian mafia family and their "driver" Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen).

What we thought of it:

An amazing amount of realism has been poured into Eastern Promises by screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things 2003), from the tragically loyal blood ties to the ritualistic tattooing practices. But while Knight's level of detail skillfully molds each character into a tightly weaved web of broken promises creating a powerful story, it detracts from the film's focus, leaving you confused as to which character is driving the story.

'The Baron of Blood' director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence 2005) ops for no guns and instead simply uses knives and old-fashioned (yet violent) brawls. Refreshingly there are no gruesomely gory scenes, and there's a spectacularly crafted scene where a bare-handed and completely starkers Mortensen takes on two mobsters armed with knives in a Turkish bath.

As with A History of Violence and Spider (2002), Cronenberg sticks to his tried and trusted premise of murderous family dramas, with masterful direction that brings a bit of old world charm back to the cinema screen. Villians are vicious yet in a way charming and never vulgar. Sensitive viewers might be in for a few shocking scenes, but it’s nothing compared to the blood baths of the Saw gore fests.

Viggo Mortensen rightfully deserves his Oscar nomination for Best Actor, having deftly immersed himself into his role as the family's driver by day/cleaner by night. His appearance and near flawless accent may charm many, but unfortunately the role isn't stand-out enough for him to outdo the other actors in his category.

All in all, Cronenberg's Eastern Promises will do for the Russian mafia what Francis Ford's The Godfather did for the Italian mafia. Never before have the Russian mob been portrayed through the lens of a camera with such factual accuracy (even though it is a feature film) and such attention to detail.

- Megan Kakora
Lies, murder and broken promises bring the Russian mafia to the screen like never before, in a riveting mob drama.

robin Hawkins 2008/02/12 2:33 PM
Eatern Promises review The term "premise" is concept in the realm of Logic, and should not be used in the manner in which Ms Kakora is using it. Perhaps she means "genre"?
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