Eastern Promises

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/10/2007

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Impressively directed, gripping thriller with a strong script and superb performances from Watts and Mortensen.

What's it all about?
Set in London, Eastern Promises stars Naomi Watts as Anna Khitrova, a midwife with a Russian family background but no knowledge of the language. When she delivers the baby of a pregnant 14-year-old, she's compelled to investigate after the mother dies in childbirth.

Searching for clues to the girl's family, Anna encounters restaurant-owning Russian gangster Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), his volatile son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and their faithful driver-slash-enforcer, Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen). When Anna's Russian uncle Stepan (Jerzy Skolimowski) translates the girl's diary, Anna realises the extent of the trouble she's in, but a developing relationship with Nikolai seems to offer a way out.

The Good
The superb script shares many of the themes of scriptwriter Steve Knight's Oscar-nominated Dirty Pretty Things, as well as presenting a similar view of London's darker, unseen corners (one location in particular will have you taking to the streets with a map). It also contains a wealth of subtly revealed character detail that really draws you in to the story.

The performances are fantastic: Naomi Watts strikes an intriguing balance between strength and emotional vulnerability (Anna's quest is at least partly driven by the fact that she recently lost her own baby), while Mueller-Stahl is genuinely chilling as Semyon. There's also strong support from Cassel, Skolimowski and Sinead Cusack as Anna's widowed mother.

The Great
However, the main reason to see the film is the continued collaboration between Viggo Mortensen and director David Cronenberg – after their sterling work on A History of Violence, their relationship is beginning to look like an actor/director partnership to rival that of DeNiro and Scorsese. Mortensen is simply terrific here, most notably during the film's stunning set-piece, in which a naked Nikolai fights off two knife-wielding assassins in a steam bath.

Worth seeing?
In short, Eastern Promises is a gripping and suspenseful thriller that sees both director and star on top of their game. Highly recommended.

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Eastern Promises
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Content updated: 13/11/2019 19:55

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