I had been wanting to watch Eastern Promises since it was first released in 2007 but never got around to it until now. Directed by David Cronenberg (The Fly, A History of Violence) and starring Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel and Armin Mueller-Stahl, Eastern Promises is a brutal, uncompromising story about a British mid-wife (Watts) who becomes involved with the Russian mafia after coming across the diary of a young girl.
It’s an incredibly dark film that has won acclaim for its realistic portrayal of the Russian mafia in the UK, right down to the tattoos their bodies are covered with. The film was nominated for three Golden Globes (including Best Picture — Drama), and Viggo was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar (but lost it to Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood).
Eastern Promises is not an easy film to watch. It’s hard to call it “enjoyable” because of how deeply depressing and violent it is, not to mention the mumbling (though apparently incredibly accurate) Russian accents. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but be engrossed in the film because it kept taking me deeper and deeper into this frightening world, and there were plenty of unexpected twists and turns that kept me on my toes, uncertain as to what might happen next. Thanks to Cronenberg, there is also this creepy, unsettling tone underlying the entire film.
Of course, there is the one scene that everyone talks about which I won’t spoil, but it’s an absolutely remarkable piece of visceral cinematic brilliance.
And you can’t appraise this film without talking about Viggo Mortensen’s performance. It’s hard to believe watching this man on screen that he was once Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, or the loving father from The Road. He’s an insanely good actor and in any other year he probably would have won the Oscar for his portrayal of Nikolai, the family’s “driver”.
4 out of 5 stars!