Monday, February 21, 2011

Eastern Promises

 Well if you been following my blog you will no doubt have found a recurring theme. Her name is Naomi Watts! Mmmmmm...Naomi!! I'm an unabashed fan and think she is one of Hollywood's premium actresses.
 Possibly the thing that impresses me most about her ( besides the fact she is a mega-babe! ) is she seems to pick her parts very well. So far she hasn't appeared in any clangers. Compare Charlize Theron who is brilliant in Monster but also appears in rubbish like Aeon Flux. The Ring movies certainly didn't challenge Watts's acting skills and yet they are still fine horrors. She gives them credibility through her talent.
 But wait! Anyone would think that she is the only person in this film! Excuse me for my Naomi ramblings! The very talented Viggo Moretensen also appears and this will make the ladies happy as he gets to fight and roll around naked in a sauna naked. And yes girls we see IT all!!
 This is not Watt's best performance or role. But Mortensen is outstanding as a Russian mobster who is not all he seems. In fact he is so good he was nominated for an Oscar.  Here is a long way from Aragon of The Lord of the Rings.
 The film centres around a young girl who dies after delivering a baby and the nurse, Watts, who finds her diary. It leads her into the dark world of the Russian mafia and enforced prostitution, or more commonly, the sex slave trade.
 Even though this is a film of fiction its content isn't pleasant. The young girl turns out to have been fourteen and a virgin when she was raped by the head of the mafia. He manipulates the incriminating diary from Watts and destroys it.
 Mortensen's character is not all he seems. Even as he is initiated into the mafia with a series of tattoos it is revealed he is working for Scotland Yard. Turn takes turn and the head of the mafia is brought down after a blood sample is skillfully taken from him and compared to the baby's to prove he is the father. Of course with the girl having been only fourteen he is convicted of statutory rape.
 There are some brutal moments in this film as throats are slit and a girl is seen to be having unwilling sex with Mortensen. The throat cuttings are unconvincing as the blood is too thick and red. A minor quibble but noticeable. But really it is a film focusing on the sex slave trade and the promises made to Russian girls that lead them into it. Of course once out of Russia and without a passport they find themselves trapped in it.
 The film of course is based on fact and is not nice because of it. It certainly brings this highly odious practise to the viewers attention in a convincing way. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the second of the Millennium trilogy also has this trade as a backdrop within Sweden. I like the fact that two films have been made bringing this practise to the worlds attention.
 In many respects they are better platforms than a documentary. People will pay to see thier favorite movie stars in a film, and if that can be combined with real life, factual scenarios then the message gets a better and wider audience. Maybe I'm reading too much into it but I hope the producers of Eastern Promises had this as a goal in making this film.
 Overall it is not in the great film realm. But it is certainly well above average to. Mortensen is very good and keeps his Russian accent believable right throughout. Watts is very solid and the film is very watchable. But it is film about a highly unplesant trade and I hope that the films whole intention was to bring this practise to the eyes of the world. A well made effort in using real practises within a fictional film.
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  1. Hey Brent.

    I found your blog via Neil's recommendation at The Agitation of the Mind.

    Nice review. I think that Naomi Watts and Maria Bello are two of the finest English-speaking actresses working today. Unsurprisingly, I think that Eastern Promises and Cronenberg's previous film, A History of Violence, are two of the last decade's best films. Mortenson gives excellent performances.

    One of my favorite scenes in Eastern Promises is when the mafia heads ask Mortensen to strip down so that they can read his tatoos. It's a provocative scene--a man's history and life chronicled on his body.

    Visually this film is pretty stunning to look at. The exteriors are cold and bleak, while the interiors are richly-colored yet often dark and shadow-filled.

    Vincent Cassel deserves mention, too. He often plays off-kilter characters to excellent effect. He sometimes steals his scenes in Eastern Promises.

    Anyway, I've been enjoying reading your work, Brent. I especially like reading about your cinema experiences where you live. You're a very good writer, and I'm looking forward to reading more. Be cool.

  2. Good call on the lovely Ms Watts. I think part of the appeal is that she combines a radiance that just draws the camera to her with a real sense of fierce intelligence. And like you say, she's picked her choice of roles very well. Just look at the roll call of directors she's worked with: David Lynch, Michael Haneke, David Cronenberg, Peter Jackson, David O Russell, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Tom Tykwer. That kind of pedigree speaks for itself!

  3. Thanks for stopping by guys! It is a real pleasure to know that my writing is being read. Hans your comment on my writing skill is very pleasing. That is what I really concentrate on most. Sure I've been to university and that helped but I'm a purist and hate bad grammer and writing. Beside film the written word is my favorite medium and I take pride in how I write something. So thanks alot!
    And thanks to you Neil your blog link has increased my traffic alot and believe me I can't thank you enough. I'm on my feet and away!
    Ah the lovely Naomi! Isn't she the greatest, sexy as hell and damn good at this acting stuff she has got herself involved in!
    Good point on her pedigree of directors to! Surprised though that no one has commented on 21 Grams which I think is Naomi's best role. What a film! Absolutely flawless.

  4. Eastern Promises is a really good movie, and the only thing that took away from my enjoyment was that I loved A history of violence and couldn't help comparing. My own fault, and two very different stories to be sure, but yes, Watts and Mortensen are both top notch here and it's well worth a watch!