Mar 6, 2012
Eastern Promises 
Eastern Promises, my second David Cronenberg movie in a week, is a drama about a midwife who discovers the shocking story of her recently-deceased unknown patient, who gave birth to a child after being raped by a Russian mob man.
To help explain this film, let me just talk about a cake. Just imagine a cake with many layers to it. The first one, on top, doesn't look to good; the colour is too bright, and its taste is rather dissapointing, like they put too much vanilla or rum in the syrup. You get to the second one and it's better: the taste is normal, but still a bit boring and not that good. As you get to the third layer, you find the chocolate, and suddenly you are interested and you want more. The center of it, the caramel, just melts your heart. "Eastern Promises" is very similar to the experience of tasting a cake- the beginning is slow, the English-Russian accents are just plain hilarious and bad, the acting can be over the top, in some situations. Then you get to meet Anna and Nikolai and you start to care, but still it doesn't feel comfortable. When you discover Tatiana's story and Nikolai's actions to spare the uncle or save the prostitute, you understand you are witnessing a character development and the story is becoming more and more interesting. In the core you encounter delicate subjects and shocking revelations, and you start to care about Anna, and the baby and you hope for a happy ending for them and even for Nikolai.
"Eastern Promises" has flaws, even more than "A history of violence", and, as expected, they are similar in some aspects. Both have a running time of less than 2 hours, but seem to last to at least 3 and 1/2. The start is slow and it drags in the middle, but when it hits, it does with such power and shock, that it knocks you down (case in point, the fighting scene in the bath). Both feature strong character, but some of them seem so out of place, so caricaturized, that I don't care as much (Fogarty and Cusack in HoV and Kiril in EP). The obvious flaw that I couldn't stand in "Eastern Promises" was the accent- that is not how Russians talk or act (I know a few); I know it is a movie and they are dramatising the individuals, but it seemed so fake and laughable at times (I liked it more when they were talking in Russian, than the English-with-a-Russian accent conversations).
That being said, some great performances were delivered. Viggo Morgensen was, yet again, very good, and although I did find it hard to believe he was Russian, he embodied Nikolai so well, with such calm, restraint and darkness, that you cannot take your eyes off of him and you even start to care about what happens to him by the end. Another standout was Armin Mueller-Stahl as the head of the family- the sweetest man turned out to be the most ruthless villain and I thought he was brilliant (the only believable character in that story). I didn't empathyze or like Vincent Cassel's character until the very last scene of him, near the water, and I thought he was overacting in most scenes, but I understood him in the end, and sometimes, that matters more than what happens in the first 80 minutes.
"Eastern Promises", is a good movie, but would I recommend it to everyone? Not really, I don't think most would like it. There are too many misses, to really appreciate and love the hits. I liked "A history of Violence" better than this one.
It seems I am in a little Cronenberg marathon, so the next movie I'll see will be A Dangerous Method!
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I do really like this movie. While A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE is unarguably better, this one is still very good too. I hope Cronenberg makes more like this one and VIOLENCE.ReplyDelete
I liked the movie a lot and Mortensen was great in it. If you didn't like accents here, definetly don't watch A Dangerous Method :)ReplyDelete
@Tyler: I agree, this style is very good for him and he always does a great job!ReplyDelete
@Sati: Haha, I have watched it, and I thought it was better than Eastern Promises, at least when it comes to accents- they didn't bother me as much (in it, it was only Keira Knightley who was bad).
I wasn't the biggest fan of this film, but Viggo is a fave of mine to watch. Great review. Loved the cake analogy!ReplyDelete
I think something that is discussed very little about this film is that it contains one of the best film twists of the last decade. The thing is: there's no huge reveal in that twist, it just comes up in conversation, and if you're not paying attention, you can miss the entire significance of it.ReplyDelete
I love Eastern Promises, I think it is fast and excellent. Interesting to hear your comments about the inaccuracy of the Russian accents. One of my best friends is Russian and he said Viggo's accent in this film is one of the best American's doing a Russian accent that he's ever heard.
Also, I agree with Sati, skip A Dangerous Method!
I really like Cronenberg's recent stuff like Spider and A History of Violence. This was another excellent film.ReplyDelete
@T: Thanks, I am glad you liked it!ReplyDelete
@Alex: Maybe I was wrong about the exactity of the accent, but for me it felt incredibly fake and it annoyed me! I agree on the twist, it was brilliant!
@Dan: Spider? haven't heard of it, I will check it out soon! thanks
I liked this movie. The scene in the sauna is one that might hit guys more than women. The fact that he is completely exposed and defenseless makes the scene that much more effective. It's one of the examples I use whenever someone tries to say that nudity is unnecessary in a film. That scene would have played a lot less scary if he would have had the protection of clothing.ReplyDelete
@Chip: You're completely right about the sauna scene, I thought it was one of the strong points of the movie! Viggo Mortensen killed it!ReplyDelete
Did not realize that EP was so short! It felt like a longer movie.ReplyDelete
But I really liked it and Viggo in it. But like many of Cronenberg's films, they are not accessible to all. I have many friends who either take him or leave him.
@Iluvcinema: That's one of the things I noticed about his movies, they seem sooooo long, although the pace is rather slow! weird!ReplyDelete
I like your cake analogy haha.ReplyDelete
I've only seen one Cronenberg film ... I know, shoot me.
@Sam: It's fine, I hadn't seen any of them before A history of Violence. I need to catch up on a lot of great classics!ReplyDelete
Yea I definitely enjoyed A History of Violence more than this one. Eastern Promises seems to plod along a bit too slowly for my taste and while I like the cast (Viggo, Naomi, Vincent), it's not a movie I'm too excited to watch when it comes on TVReplyDelete
@Castor: I agree, EP is not his best movie! thanks!ReplyDelete
I really like Eastern Promises - one of my favourites from the strong year that was 2007. Viggo's performance is excellent, Cassell and Armin Muehler Stahl are great as alwats - and for once I actually like Naomi Watts too. I think this is a very well-constructed, well-paced film (the runtime always seems to fly by), and it features a couple of extraordinary scenes. How they filmed that bath fight is beyond me? VIOLENCE is better, perhaps, but this is a film I will come back to.ReplyDelete
@Andy: That bath scene is something else, no doubt! Thanks for dropping by, Andy, always nice to have you around!ReplyDelete