“Eastern Promises,” left me feeling questionably satisfied. There are many great aspects to it and yet it lacked a specific something. There is no doubt that Director Cronenberg’s depiction of the back streets of London is nothing but brilliant. Cinematographer, Peter Suschitzky does an amazing job of capturing the dark, luring tone that the film simmers in. Viggo Mortensen, who plays the role of Nikolai, is fascinating to watch, rarely is an actor ever simultaneously as still and complex. Altogether, the film has a fantastically eerie vibe that gets under your skin.
So I was very confused when I walked out of this almost stunning movie unsatisfied. To clarify, this film was very hard to review because there is something I want to love about it, but I just can’t quite let myself. It is far better than the majority of B.S. that I have seen lately, but it is not quite great. To me, this film is an example of a piece of work with a good director, good actors, and absolutely no point. (And don’t even try asking… Does any movie?)
Mind you, there is a story, just not one that seems to matter, it just appears to be an added plot device. In the end I felt unchanged, most likely because none of the characters seemed to change. Technically they cover the “why you should care about these characters,” but because none of them are even slightly effected by the situation they are in, one wonders why the audience should be. (SPOILER ALERT) Naomi Watts’ character Anna, never appeared to change even slightly after being faced with the Russian mafia, a death threat on her uncle, and a possible baby murder. Not only did she not change but she never seemed to relay the sense of urgency that the fucking mob was after her! (SPOILER OVER) Viggo Mortenson’s character was interesting to watch, but his character had no real arch, more of a slowly elevated hill without a great view.
From the very beginning the film did not pull me in, it left me outside to watch and as a result I was able to walk out of the theater not feeling anything. In order to care about a film you have to care about something in it, hopefully the characters. The film is impressive to watch, but that’s about it, you simply watch it without ever having a feeling of being invested in anything that happens.
Although I do love that the film is quite bare and life-like. The violence is graphic in a “realistic” way (I’ve never slit someones throat, but I’m guessing they demonstrated it well). The big fight scene you’ll be waiting for is down right intense, from lots of blood, Viggo’s wang, and man on man contact. And much to my satisfaction, realistic outcomes to the damages done (ie if you get stabbed, it’s going to hurt), which is always appreciated by me.
I think if they would have made it a story just about the characters it would have worked. But they didn’t, they tried to pack in too many subplots (that felt forced) making it appear as if they were just covering their bases in order to move the story along. It made it feel like they were giving you things to care about but no reasons. This was worsened by the fact that all the plot devices only had to do with Naomi Watt’s character, who I felt nothing for because she didn’t seem to care about what was going on. I felt no sense of vulnerability in a character that really needed it.
All the little tiny plot devices meant to trick and tease you with Viggo, don’t really work for me either. I think Viggo made his character work because the transformed himself into someone completely different from what you would expect from him, has the amazing ability of making you feel uncomfortable, and looks creepy as hell when he wants. Viggo Mortensen is captivating to watch and the main reason I will say, go see this movie, it is worth you $11 (gasp).
And if nothing else, watch this trailer, it is amazing!