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Eastern Promises

June 11, 2008

Title: Eastern Promises
Language: English

Year of Release: 2007

Director: David Cronenberg

Actors:Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel

The first weekend of June was quite exceptional in many cases. I caught up with some friends after an year or so…and worked on a Saturday after more than 3 months! Since I am here to talk about cinema…I will stick to that! Couple of big Hindi flicks released last week, “Sarkar Raj” (this one seems to have gathered a universal thumbs up from the audience, although quite a few critics haven’t been so impressed) and then “Aamir” (starring Rajeev Khandelwal, which has been strongly recommended to watch by too many critics, although I haven’t met too many people who have seen it!). But I chose to watch both the flicks at a later stage. My primary concern in this city was to watch as many english flicks as possible (ironically, despite having around 100+ screens, an english flick rarely sticks around…and if it doesn’t have big names associated, then it would be a miracle if it is given a slot for more than 2 weeks!). And last week my choice was…David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises”.

First things first, this flick was supposed to be “coming soon” for a long time! And it finally saw the light last weekend. I had faintly heard about this one, but later decided to watch it on the advise of a friend and also some good reviews on IMDB.com and Rottentomatoes.com, which is to say that I knew what to expect from it. And I am sure I wasn’t disappointed at the end of it, although I guess I will have enough number of people contradicting my point.

The flick opens with a brutal murder of a Russian mobster followed by the death of Tatiana, a 14 year old girl during childbirth. The mid-wife stumbles upon a diary of this girl and upon Tatiana’s death, she is determined to translate the diary to English, to see if she can find the whereabouts of Tatiana’s relatives. She comes across a card belonging to Trans-Siberian Restaurant and tracks down the restaurant in London, thus meeting the owner of the restaurant Semyon, who’s also the boss of the Russian Mafia or Vory V Zakone (“Thieves of Law”). She accidentally mentions to him that she has the diary and Seymon who’s more than curious about the contents of the diary convinces her to bring the diary to him. But her Russian uncle happens to read it and tells her that it has many dark secrets about her life and also that of the Vory v Zakone’s activities. Kiril who’s the son of Seymon does some deals without informing his father with the help of his chauffeur, Nikolai Luzhin . This enrages Seymon who’s certain of a backlash from the now deceased mobster’s kin. He hatches a plan to save his son and thus takes Nikolai, who’s promised to stand up for Kiril in trouble, into confidence. What follows is a desperate attempt to find out what had happened to Tatiana and who had caused all that ghastly things to her. And also how the Vory v Zakone’s try to clean their sins…but as the tagline of the flick goes….Every Sin Leaves a Mark.

The story of the movie is not that difficult to understand, but what makes it different from a normal one is its screenplay which makes a strong impact. Like a carefully painted portrait every scene in the flick is brilliantly directed with even the minute details taken care . The major emphasis in most part of the story is on the characterization of the actors. There’s Luzhin, who begins as a ruthless maniac who will stop at nothing to take care of Kiril but as the story progresses, he sympathizes with Anna, the mid-wife and in a way tries to find out what had happened with Tatiana. Anna, who’s obsessed to find out the truth behind Tatiana’s death goes on a trail and tumbling across the mobster along the way. Kiril, the son of the mob head who’s dreaming to fill in his father’s shoes soon but at the same time shows compassion towards Luzhin always treating him like a brother. Seymon, with his calm expression hisses venom under his innocent looks. And a gamut of others who are some way or the other connected to them put in a splendid performance.

The person who stands out, from almost every frame in which he’s part of is Nikolai Luzhin, brilliantly enacted by Viggo Mortensen (he’s the same fellow who played Aragorn in LOTR). I would call him the soul of the film who blows your mind with his composed performance and each dialouge of his hitting you like a brick. One of my favourite lines from the flick is from the scene where Anna asks him, why is he helping them? To that he replies, “I can’t become king if someone else already sits on the throne.” There are plenty of one liners which stay on for quite sometime….Undoubtedly a performance worthy of many awards (he was nominated for Oscars this year, which finally went to Daniel Day Lewis for his gem of a performance in “There will be Blood”.). Viggo puts on a Russian accent for his performance (although I have no clue if that’s how it’s supposed to be spoken!), but I guess he brings in a certain amount of mystery to his role…you just can’t read his mind! Sometimes he’s a cold-blooded person who won’t listen to anyone, and another time he goes an extra mile to help others. Another point here is about the style of his activties, there’s no shooting at others, no bombs exploding, no shouting at the top of lungs to drive a point home…just plain expressions (like the one with his confrontation with Anna’s Uncle).

Naomi Watts as the mid-wife Anna, is remarkable and is quite successful in catching the attention of the audience till the end. I guess a lot of credit must go to the director David Cronenberg who’s been quite successful in getting such remarkable performances from his actors. His strength in direction is quite evident in more than few scenes, but the scenes which I loved were the ones between Luzhin and Kiril.

I must confess that I have seen an Indian version of this flick and as per the norms of the censor board, I realise that I must have missed quite a few scenes related to violence and Nudity, in particular the Bathroom knife scene which has been touted by many as one of the best things in the movie….God knows when would these “elite” people understand that audience almost everywhere is quite mature to receive the matter…I wonder what do they do with all those zillions of reels of edited content!!!…:P…any guesses?!!..J

When I saw this flick, many people were disappointed with the ending and few didn’t even understand what was going on in the flick…and I still have some unanswered questions about the flick…like what does the title mean? What’s the point of view of others who have liked the flick? And if I have missed observing something….then what all are they?! . But maybe you should watch the flick before coming to a conclusion…don’t miss this one, you might miss a good crime thriller flick loaded with some cool dialouges to have released in a long time! Roger Ebert, gave the film a 4/4 rating…imdb.com puts it at 7.9/10 and rottentomatoes.com gives it a solid fresh rating of 89%…and all I can do is recommend you to watch this flick before it is thrashed into obscurity.

Check out this teaser of the flick..

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