Tuesday, October 02, 2007

MOVIE REVIEW: "Eastern Promises"

The New Yorker magazine's summation of the plot serves well:

"The new David Cronenberg film, set among Russian mobsters in London, stars Viggo Mortensen ["History of Violence"] as Nikoli, a part time chauffeur and full time threat. He takes care of business for Semyo (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a soft-spoken restaurateur with frightening blue eyes, and Semyon's whining son (Vincent Cassel). Into this murk comes Anna (Naomi Watts), a midwife, who is trying to trace the family of an orphaned Russian [newborn] child. What Cronenberg and his screenwriter, Steve Knight ["Dirty Pretty Things"], want to engineer is a collision between worlds, that have nothing--no social habits or moral norms--in common. The result, despite the modern setting, is a strangely old-fashioned fable, with a redeeming innocent thrown among evil men."

The New Yorker goes on to (mostly) praise the film, with a few critical remarks added.

I, on the other hand, have no critical remarks, except perhaps warning about some extreme violence. It is the best film I have seen this year, the best since last year's German film, "Lives of Others" (Best Foreign film; Academy Awards). Both films share a modernity of style with and uncommon (in today's films anyway) conundrum: a hero's moral complexity and a moral dilemma.

The acting is superb...up and down the line; powerful and elegant, animistic and restrained. Mortensen is brilliant; Naomi Watts is excellent as usual...a chip off the old Cate Blanchett/Meryl Streep block. Everyone else in the cast is of the highest standard.

There is, as I said above, violence...bordering on the unnecessary...especially in the first 10 minutes. You may very well turn away. But hang in there. Seeing this film is well worth it.

Later in the film, there is a gruesome physical fight with some heavies in a bath that Cronenberg and Mortensen pulls off brilliantly; Mortensen is nude. The choreography of the violence is poetic: a tour de force, balletic, graceful in its extreme bloodletting. I never dreamed I could appreciate that kind of sequence. I did.

See this film.


Post a Comment

<< Home