Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eastern Promises

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : Sep ‘07
Time : 100 minutes
Director : David Cronenborg ; Writer : Steven Knight ;
Starring : Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Vincent Cassel

“Anna: Have you ever met a girl named Tatiana?
Nikolai Luzhin: I meet lot of girls named Tatiana.
Anna: She was pregnant.
Nikolai Luzhin: Ah, in that case - no, I've never heard of her.
Anna: She died on my shift.
Nikolai Luzhin: I thought you did birth?”

“Semyon: So, you know where I am...and now I know where you are, Anna Ivanovna”

“Nikolai Luzhin: Forget any of this happened. Stay away from people like me.”

A really, tight, tense film, which never lets up from the time it starts, beguiling you into its very authentic, violent, intimidating world. A world which seems to exist in parallel to the one we inhabit, a world with its own rules and own hierarchy.

This is a film about an English mid-wife, Anna’s (Naomi Watt) slow exposure to the Russian mafia. At first the characters seem charming, Semyon, with his restaurant, his borstch and violin playing skills, seems the epitome of graciousness. But then slowly, the blue eyes turn steely and then its too late for Anna to turn back. Semyon’s son Kirril (Vincent Cassil) is a bit too drunk, a bit too obsessed with girls and a bit too reliant on Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), his driver. And the driver is, like the frozen wastelands of Russia, icy and restrained, almost emotionless.

Just to spice things up, there are some murderous Chechen’s, a Jewish barber who doubles as a hitman, Anna’s uncle who claims he used to work for the KGB and of course, there is Cristina, the baby who Tatiana died giving birth to…

Slowly, the film kind of comes together, things become clearer and the plot kind of assembles itself. What makes the film special though is the steady pace, the unrelenting tension, the attention to detail and the excellent performances. Viggo, Naomi and Armin, in particular, excel and epitomise their roles. The whole thing about tattoo’s, especially the Russian prison stories, are both chilling and interesting at the same time and provides a nice thread through the film. But it’s the tension which stays with you, even when it ends. Its gory in parts, graphic in others (despite the Indian DVD version seeming to have undergone several cuts) but never to a point where it becomes unwatchable.

There is another line in the film, where Nikolai asks Anna to go back to her world, where nice people belong, and he says it matter of factly, without emotion, without threatening and also without sadness. For me, that line encapsulates the film, underlining that there is a lot that is happening in reality which we don’t know about. And maybe we don’t want to.

1 comment:

Rohit Deep said...

One of the few reviews I agree with :). It is nicely made.