Anthony's Film Review
Eastern Promises (2007)
Two seemingly unrelated plotlines interweave in an interesting way in this dark drama...
Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, is one of those movies where the originality of its story comes from combining two plotlines that you don't typically see together. Here, you have a story that centers on Naomi Watts as a midwife named Anna who is searching for a family. You also have a story involving the members of the Russian mafia, including Viggo Mortensen as Nikolai and Vincent Cassel as Kirill. On the surface, you might not consider these two stories coming together. Of course, it's not impossible for them to intertwine. All you have to do is introduce something that matters so much to both sets of characters.
Here, what brings them together is a baby. In the beginning of the movie, a pregnant young woman named Tatiana suddenly bleeds vaginally. She is taken to a hospital where Anna the midwife is able to save the baby, but the mother dies from the hemorrhaging. This leaves Anna with the task of finding the woman's family in hopes of giving the baby a proper home. The only thing that could provide clues to the woman's origin is a diary in her possession. Anna takes the diary and begins her search, starting with a restaurant where the woman had supposedly visited at one point.
What Anna doesn't know is that the seemingly friendly old man she meets at the restaurant is, in fact, a Russian crime boss. This is where Nikolai and Kirill enter the picture. Interestingly enough, the situation does not turn immediately hostile as you might expect when you have one woman in the vicinity of two men. In fact, Nikolai takes a moment to provide Anna with transportation when her motorcycle suddenly doesn't start. This strange relationship between Anna and Nikolai is one of the interesting things about Eastern Promises.
The story does get good. Anna soon discovers that Tatiana had been raped by someone in the Russian mafia. This is something that also frightens Anna's mother and uncle. The situation now involves both the search for the dead woman's family and Anna's safety. Meanwhile, there is an attempt by the Russian mafia to cover up the rape. Nikolai, throughout all of this, is still not vengeful towards Anna. The answer to this mystery lies in a surprising revelation about Nikolai late in the film.
The performances by the cast aren't bad. I must say that Viggo Mortensen really has an unforgettable on-screen presence here. Although his character is quiet and not very emotional, the way Mortensen sinks into his role, complete with a Russian accent, cannot be ignored. On the other hand, he is also one brave actor in the film's only fight scene, in which Nikolai, completely naked in a sauna, fends off two leather-clad thugs armed with knives. (Despite the film being marketed as a thriller, there are really only two other violent scenes besides the sauna scene, both involving a man's neck being sliced.)
So this movie isn't too bad. I enjoyed following the story, which may not be fast-paced but was at least not too slow. I also liked the character of Anna, a caring woman who would go out of her way to help someone in need, and also the character of Nikolai, who might not be as bad as he seems. If it weren't for these two characters, the movie might be more like the usual crime film, which I wouldn't object to, but there wouldn't be as much originality. That is the one thing I truly appreciate in movies like Eastern Promises: something new that can be just as good as what we've seen before.
For more information about Eastern Promises, visit the Internet Movie Database.