Hidden Gem – Eastern Promises

Hidden Gem – A film from the recent past you might have overlooked or didn’t know about, but you should check it out.

Eastern Promises is from 2007 one of three films made by director David Cronemberg and staring Viggo Mortensen, the other two being A History Of Violence and A Dangerous Method. Eastern Promises is set in the criminal underworld of the Russian Mafia living in London. When a teenage prostitute dies in child birth the midwife who delivered the baby (Naomi Watts) puts herself in danger when her anger and curiosity leads her to uncover truths about the local Mafiosa, the mob bosses son (Vincent Cassel) and his right hand man (Mortensen) use different techniques to persuade her to leave them alone.

Violence, identity and morality are key factors at play during the film. Playing with our expectations and leaving the audience with information to process, that may not be spelled out but left for the audience to decide.

While Eastern Promises can be looked at as something of a standard mystery/ crime drama, and very much a departure from Cronembergs body horror movies of the 1980-90s and more towards the very physiological dramas he is making today. This film is a brooding, intelligent film, with some graphic violence, featuring some very impressive acting from all the leads. 

Looking at the fight scene in the bathhouse. This scene is amazing; brutal, vulnerable and visceral. And a reminder of what a great actor Mortensen can be, and should be remembered that he is more than just Aragon.

The use of identity (I’m not going to spoil anything here) is an internal conflict for all characters involved. Cultural, professional, personal, the importance of each individual identity and how one can be more important that another all are major themes. What we tell people and what we show people may not be the same thing. 
Mortensen clearly works very well with Cronenberg having created a masterful tragic violent family saga in A History Of Violence, it is Eastern Promises that gets overlooked, as it is a more definable genre film than AHOV, but leaves no less of an impact.

If you feel you need to watch something that keeps you engaged, without lots of explosions or special effects but is intelligent and well acted but still biting, mysterious and violent then look no further than Eastern Promises.