Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Eastern Promises directed by David Cronenberg (starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent Cassel)

Eastern Promises (2007). Screenplay by Stephen Knight.

The plot of Eastern Promises isn't as important as its characters. Sure, a London midwife (Naomi Watts) finds the Russian-language diary of a teenage mother who died in childbirth — hoping she can get it translated so she can the surviving family of the baby (who lived). And, yes, this search leads her to the door of Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), restaurant owner and head of the Russian mob, and his loose cannon son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel).

But the real chemistry comes from star Viggo Mortensen, who plays their driver, Nikolai, as he tries to warn her off the search, since she is getting into dangerous territory. And Mortensen is the true star of Eastern Promises since it is really his story, and Nikolai's relationship with Kirill the center of the film. Mortensen delivers a riveting (and Oscar®-nominated) performance that kept me involved throughout the film, but after it was over, I had a conflicted response.

The acting, especially from Mortensen and Mueller-Stahl (who I'll watch in anything), was terrific (though Watts, as the film's moral center, is given nothing to play), but the storyline just left me cold. It seems as if Eastern Promises was designed purely as a vehicle for Mortensen (ostensibly as a follow-up to his previous pairing with director Cronenberg: the highly successful A History of Violence), but with little thought given to an actual, interesting narrative. The "plot twist," such as it was, felt arbitrary and merely muddies up an already confused film.

(Nice work on the first death, though. That got my attention.)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails