Monday, January 26, 2009

Eastern Promises (2007)

There is little I can say about the plot without giving the movie away. I *hate* to do that. So I will tell you what starts the story in motion and the rest will be for you to decide if you wish to watch it or not. A young, unidentified Russian girl dies in the ER while giving birth. All that is on her person is a diary written in Russian. The ER doctor, Anna (Naomi Watts), sets out to try to get the diary translated so she can identify the girl and find the rightful home for the baby. Unfortunately, she couldn't imagine how dangerous her investigation about the girl's identity would become.

Viggo Mortensen looking a litte more than just tough

Now, given that plot, if you know anything about the movie you might be wondering how the actual star of the movie fits in. Viggo Mortensen, Nikolai, plays a chauffer to a Russian Mafia family based in London. That is all I care to give away, but I will say that Mortensen is absolutely amazing in his role. He nailed everything about it - he nailed the accent, the attitude, the toughness - everything. I can see why he was nominated for an Oscar for this performance. His character is set up well by a short exchange with the ER doctor in the beginning of the movie when they are discussing her motor bike.

Nikolai: "How much do you want for it?"
Anna: "It has sentimental value."
Nikolai: "Ahhh, sentimental value. I have heard of that."

It is a bit subtle, but it says a lot about his character. I read that Viggo went to Russia and Siberia, with just a translator, to try to learn about the Russian mafia lifestyle and study the tattoos which figure prominently into this movie. The research paid off because ... he really nailed it.

Now, I have to warn you, this is a great story and a really good movie. However, it is seriously not for the faint of heart. It is brutal and shocking. There is a lot of graphic violence and unpleasant scenes. I had to wince away from the screen several times myself. Also, there is a fight scene that takes place where Viggo is completely naked and if you don't want to see brief glimpses of male full frontal nudity, then skip that entire scene. It isn't sexy or hot at all. It is a bloody and complex fight scene where the man happens to be completely naked when he is attacked. It fits well into the story and was incredibly brave of Viggo to take on. I just wanted to throw the warning out as I am recommending this one and don't want to hear that I told you to watch something you weren't prepared for. It is meant to shock and it does.

I still recommend this one if you can get past the graphic violence. It is one of those movies that will stay with you for a while. The characters are strong and you will ponder where they go from the point that you leave them. You will also contemplate what is good and what is evil and perhaps the much thinner line between the two than one would think. The voice of the Russian girl, via her diary, will haunt you and make you realize that "Eastern Promises" is the perfect title. It is an amazing piece of work, but it is hard to stomach.


Jennythenipper said...

This movie for me was all about where i watched it: on an airplane very late at night after watching two other movies. I hated it. I thought it was awful and shocking and so gross that I nearly had to turn it off in several scenes. I should also tell you that one of the movies that I'd watched just prior to it was Goodfellas. Really. You'd think I'd have been so desensitized by that movie that Eastern Promises would have seemed ok. Perhaps it was just overload.

Still, I think that there was something unforgettable and mesmerizing about the movie. It does create this mysterious world where nothing is as it seems and Mortensson is magically attractive and repulsive as that world's main representative. Thanks for reviewing this one April. I think I'll have to take another look at this movie again.

AbbyNormal said...

Jenny - thanks for commenting. If it makes you feel better, I had to watch it twice to make peace with it. I watched it the first time and was shocked and a little grossed out by the violence. I didn't hate it though. I knew it was a good movie but also knew I missed too much due to shock. So, I put it aside for several months. I only recently picked it back up and watched it. That helped me because I knew what to expect and where so it didn't bother me as much. I also what was happening with the story so I was able to focus on the characters and watch the choices they were making and why.

I loved your sentence about creating a mysterious world and the attraction and repulsion felt for Mortensson. It is so true and one of the reasons we don't turn off to it immediately. It all hinges on him and his muscular shoulders. :-)

The second viewing is key to this one, I think, if you can stand it.