Eastern Promises (2007)

Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Josef Altin
A Russian teenager living in London who dies during childbirth leaves clues to a midwife in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.
David Cronenberg triumphs again, showcasing the Viggo Mortensen's onscreen prowess in a daring performance. Bearing the trademarks of psychological drama and gritty violence, Eastern Promises is a very compelling crime story.
  • Focus Features Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 21 Sep 2007 Released:
  • 23 Dec 2007 DVD Release:
  • $17.1M Box office:

Trailer:

Amazing10/10
First of all it is amazing the amount of research that went into this movie. When Mortissen's characters says that his father worked for the government, in Russian he actually says: "Hunched his back for the uncle"! Even the poster with little and index finger straighter then the rest, it all breathers authenticity.

I didn't go in expecting non-Russian actors to suddenly have no accent, but I did have hesitations about the pronunciation, that usually tends to be horrible. Not so here, despite the accent (that was slight), the intonation, the way the characters cary themselves especially Mortinssen's are very Russian. (Even his less then perfect English sounds Russia when he misses articles: "Not good place for girl to grow up.") Overall the director shows a bit of what a real SinCity looks like. Violence is like a snap of a whip, sudden and loud. The movie is very stylish, but without trying to be so. It's just how these people like to live their lifes. A lot has been said about acting and it is true Mortinssen really delivers. All the auther actors are great too though, there is no weak link in this movie.

Anyway the bottom line: The most authentic movie about Russian mobsters that the west has produced so far. Furthermore I find the only aspect in which it looses to the Godfather is scope. Although the movie is complete I can not help, but to want for more. The best film I've seen this year.
An Actor's Courage9/10
I was bowled over by Viggo Mortensen's performance. I saw the film about a week ago and his eyes, his look, his smirk has been with me every day since. He is rapidly becoming my favorite actor because he makes something new, long lasting, thought provoking and totally true, out of the characters he plays, the way he plays them and I feel also, why he plays them. Here he is a Russian mobster's driver, or is he? The important thing is that you won't be able to take your eyes of him. Here he has David Cronemberg at his side / or sides, once again. Cronemberg seems to know and understand Mortensen's power. And Mortensen seems to trust him completely. Eastern Promises is a really good film with and extraordinary Viggo Mortensen at its very core. Not to be missed.
'Promises delivered'8/10
"Eastern Promises" will take your breath away, churn your stomach, and then leave you with memories of unforgettable characters as well as perplexing thoughts about good and evil. David Cronenberg's movie about Russian and Chechen mobsters clashing in London is more than violent - it is brutal, savage, shocking. But do not expect just an action film, exploiting blood and gore. After you shake off its terrific immediate impact (there is no way to think while watching it), you realize that "Eastern Promises" is also a kind of morality tale, complex and important.

Only after you hold your breath, cover your eyes, and get through the movie do you realize how "Eastern Promises" manages to contradict Friedrich Nietzsche effectively. The German philosopher's "Beyond Good and Evil" denied the possibility of a universal morality. Cronenberg's film says that ethics - without expectation of rewards, in this life or a possible other one - can prevail even in the depths of great evil. The "History of Violence" director continues his subtle, subtext theme of upholding Anne Frank's belief that "in spite of everything people are really good at heart," and he does so without a smidgen of sentimentality.

There is no goodness in evidence as Viggo Mortensen's scary Russian mobster does every bidding of Armin Mueller-Stahl's chilling godfather figure, ruling ruthlessly over a family, which includes his son, a monster out of control, played brilliantly by Vincent Cassel (son of Jean-Pierre Cassel).

During a pre-release press tour, Cronenberg spoke of his wish to present "provocative, juicy stories... with complexity... showing that all monsters are sentimental and have some kind of relationship to a moral compass." That is all true, but what makes "Eastern Promises" so appealing is that there is no pop psychology (or worse, pop philosophy) in or about it. The film hits you over the head with its magnificently written story (Steven Knight, of "Dirty Pretty Things"), not with a message.

The title, on one level, refers to promises made to young women in Russia, luring them to the West, where the Mob enslaves them as prostitutes. It is one of these drugged and brutalized women whose death opens the film, and brings an English nurse (Naomi Watts) into the story.

As a multitude of promises, threats and tragedies unfolds, you get the maximum out of "Eastern Promises" with minimum advance knowledge of its story. Initially, that is. When you return to see it again, it won't matter that you'll know how it ends, you will want to re-experience what is certain to become a classic film. ("Eastern Promises" was shown at the Toronto Festival last week, opened in San Francisco today, goes nationwide on Sept. 21.)
works so well on many levels...9/10
It is not often that audiences today are treated to a film that has as many things going for it as Eastern Promises does. Whether it's because of interference from studios determined to make their products as marketable as possible, filmmakers who favor style over substance, or just a plain old shortage of originality, nowadays it is a treat when a film fan can leave the theater and feel affected by the artistry that he/she has just experienced.

On the surface, Eastern Promises is a straightforward crime story about people who don't appear to be terribly complex. But somehow, the combination of the narrative, the mood, and the humanness of the characters create an alchemy that transcends this film from something that could have been common into something quite unique and memorable. Noirish settings, dedicated medical professionals, and mobsters and their loyal henchmen are all commonplace enough in movies as to risk being cliches. Yet everything in this film about a London midwife who stumbles into contact with the Russian mob as she seeks clues to the identity of a teen who died in childbirth mesh together wonderfully and fully engage the viewer.

While it all starts with the script, credit must be given to the director, David Cronenberg for bringing it to life, and for the cast, who created living, breathing characters who the viewer cares about- whether they are likable or not, good or evil, or not quite so easy to read. They seem real.

At the core of the film is "Nikolai," the loyal chauffeur to the kingpin's volatile son. "Nikolai" is both enigmatic and mesmerizing. We know he is a man with a past and with secrets, but we really don't know what his goals and motives are. We don't know who he is, yet somehow, just as the half-Russian midwife, "Anna", we are drawn to him and trust that there is goodness in him, even as were are not quite sure we should. It is a skillful, yet understated performance that quietly blows you away.

Although Eastern Promises has some of the director's signature moments of eye-popping violence, they do not dominate this film and it is the quiet moments- where the characters are silently contemplating aspects of their own existence that give the film its power. We can see the introspection and pain on their faces, but the script leaves so much unsaid, and so much about the two main characters (played by Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts) we come to care about so much remain a beautiful, haunting mystery.
Another masterpiece10/10
Eastern Promises is a further proof David Cronenberg is one of the last classic film-makers left. At the same time, he is a modernist. The combination, in the dark London he created, is a moral tale which makes you think of Dostoievsky. It's a story of crime and redemption with an unusual (hidden) tenderness. At the same time, it is a very serious trip into the rites of a secret society as we can see more and more in our big cities. A criminal secret society.

Cronenberg (and his friend Peter Suschistky) have created another universe that seems another version of ours. As usual it is a mental one, but so close to what we call "reality" that it makes you uncomfortable and eventually horrified. The cast is fantastic and the script is brilliant.