25. Eastern Promises (2007)

We didn’t promise you anything

Directed by: David Cronenberg
Written by: Steven Knight
Starring: Vigo Mortenson, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl

It’s hard to know what level of expectation one should have before watching David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. Dramatic, engaging, but also darkly violent and emotionally unsteady, Eastern Promises can only be described as intriguing crime-action-drama, lacking the pace and intensity of a thriller.  But while the film seems to dodge being categorized as one genre, it leaves a strangely lingering impression that leaves you turning over some of the ideas and scenes.

Anna (Watts) is a midwife at Trafalgar Hospital. As a pregnant fourteen year old girl dies while giving birth to a child at the hospital, Anna takes it upon herself to find the address of the young girl’s family. With the girl’s diary as her only source of information, Anna finds herself uncovering the underworld of the Russian mafia as the translation of the diary exposes more and more of their crimes. In contact with the mafia’s “driver” (Mortenson), Anna discovers there’s more to this mysterious and seemingly dangerous man than what it seems.

It is because Eastern Promises takes its time that it has an engaging effect on the audience. As the film uses immersive ways in which to play out ideas of protection, intrigue and secrets, the story becomes more than a simplistic crime drama – weaving in and out of surprising turns with deep impressions and interesting insights into the characters. Having said this, Eastern Promises lacks the tension and excitement that could have made the story more compelling to watch. Performances in the film, therefore, feel a little repressed due to the heaviness of the concepts explored and often find themselves in the midst of dialogue that feels flat and somewhat predictable despite the incredibly unpredictable storyline.

Note: Russian mobsters use coded hand gestures


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