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Review of Eastern Promises

I’d been looking forward to this film since I saw the trailers for it. I’d enjoyed David Cronenburg’s film from a couple of years ago – A History of Violence – so I thought this would be more of the same. Unfortunately, it was.

Many things about the two films are similar: Viggo Mortensen plays a character with a secret identity on a brutal mission (yes – three counts as many). Many things are also different: while both films are pretty bleak, Eastern Promises‘s London setting is much darker, colder; and, in A History of Violence, the main character’s family provide a more human contrast, but are relatively minor in the plot, but here, Anna, the human face of Eastern Promises, is, in fact, the main character.

The film is, actually, quite good, but along with what I’ve already mention its flaws bring it down. Naomi Watts’s character, Anna, is a boring, goody-two-shoes midwife, who inevitably gets involved in something she should have left alone. She starts off by taking the diary of a Russian teenager who dies in childbirth at her hospital, and for no particular reason she thinks she’s going to track down the girl’s family so the surviving baby can be given into their care. There’s no indication as to whether the police, social services or whoever are doing this as well. At the end of the film, she (she’s single and lives with her mother, by the way) also ends up with the baby. I didn’t realise fostering a child was that easy.

There’s also a major subplot, that, in hindsight, seems strangely irrelevant. And a mulitplicity of heavy Russian accents. I don’t know how accurate these accents were, but there’s definitely something comical about them. The fight scene between Mortensen’s naked stunt double and a couple of leather jacketed goons was probably quite impressive, but it was spoilt for me by people in the row behind reacting too loudly.

It’s not a bad film by any means – it does a lot of what it sets out to do, does it with a good deal of style, and Viggo Mortensen is convincing as the cold driver-stroke-finger-chopper-offer – but overall it was a disappointment.

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