Eastern Promises (2007)

Genre(s): Crime / Drama / Thriller
Focus Features, Universal || R - 100 minutes - $29.98 || December 26, 2007
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2007-12-20


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: David Cronenberg
Writer(s): Steven Knight (screenplay)
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel, Armin Mueller-Stahl


Theatrical Release Date: September 21, 2007


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Secrets and Stories
  • Marked for Life


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

After being somewhat disappointed with A History of Violence, I decided to go into Eastern Promises with lower expectations for what David Cronenberg would bring to the film. After reading what the film was about and seeing some footage, I quickly realized that my anticipation equaled that of A History of Violence fairly quickly. The only difference is that Eastern Promises met those expectations while A History of Violence, while still a good film, fell below my expectations.

It is interesting to see David Cronenberg move away from his science fiction surrealist films like Videodrome, Scanners, The Fly, eXistenZ etc. and move more towards straight dramas without having people's heads blown off or some object come out of someone's stomach. His two films prior to Eastern Promises, A History of Violence and Spider, show that Cronenberg has the ability to direct straight dramas just as well as his horror mysteries.

The film follows Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) as he attempts to merge himself with the underground Russian mafia. Nikolai crosses paths with a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts) who discovers a secret that reveals too much about the Russian mafia. Anna finds a diary and her curiosity pushes her and her family deeper into this criminal world. Cronenberg did a great job in assembling the international cast. He has Mortensen who is American playing a Russian, Watts an Australian playing a Brit (though she was born in England), the French actor Vincent Cassel and the German actor Armin Mueller-Stahl both playing Russians. Even though these actors all come from different parts of the acting world, Cronenberg merges them all together very well.

The strongest aspect of the film is most certainly Viggo Mortensen's performance as Nikolai. This is easily Mortensen's best performance to date and it is certainly not an easy one. I was glad to see that Viggo was getting some attention for his strong performance in Eastern Promises. His character doesn't have the usual "awards attention" feel like that of Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood because it is much more subtle. Still, I think Mortensen brings a great dynamic to his character because you are afraid of him without even hearing a word from him. The make-up artists did a fantastic job with creating authentic tattoos that reveal much about Nikolai. Mortensen even jokes that he went to bars and pubs with the tattoos on after shooting and people seemed to truly think he was a Russian mobster. Mortensen also most certainly takes part in one of the most unique fights I have ever seen in any film. I won't spoil what the fight entails exactly but lets just say Viggo is fairly dedicated actor to want to perform that scene.

Cronenberg does a great job in showing the dual lives that these mobsters live in. One second Semyon and Kirill are playing with their grandchildren or nephews and the next second they are taking part in a murder or planning some sort of criminal act. As Nikolai enters the crime world of Semyon and uncovers secrets, the audience feels as though they are right with Nikolai the whole time. The film has a dark, cold feeling that creates a great atmosphere during the course of the film. Though creating a specific mood is something that Cronenberg is a master at but he hadn't really done it as effectively in straight dramas. Cronenberg most certainly is maturing into a much well rounded filmmaker with his past three films.

I am definitely surprised that the film seems to have gone underneath the radar the past few months. With strong ensemble performances led by Viggo Mortensen and strong direction led by David Cronenberg, Eastern Promises is most certainly one of the best films of 2007.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

SECRETS AND STORIES is a 10 minute look at the making of Eastern Promises. It is a fairly standard making of that one would see on HBO. The genesis of the film as well as the casting are covered briefly in this extra.

MARKED FOR LIFE is a 6 minute look at the numerous tattoos worn by Viggo Mortensen's character in the film. It is actually a very interesting look at how detailed David Cronenberg wanted the tattoos to be. Mortensen also discusses how many thought he was a real Russian mobster because of the authenticity of these tattoos. At 6 minutes, I think the DVD producers could have gone into much more detail.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

The video and audio transfers on the film are both top notch. The film is presented in 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen. The dark colors of the Russian crime world come off very strongly in the transfer. The film's audio specifications are Dolby Digital 5.1 with an option for the same track in French. The film is heavy on dialogue so this wouldn't be the ideal DVD to test your sound system. Still, Howard Shore's great score comes off very well.



.::OVERALL::.

It's unfortunate to see that Universal really didn't put much effort into this DVD release. With the absence of any real special features, the DVD has double-dip written all over it. No commentary is provided by Cronenberg and there's also an absence of deleted scenes or any other quality special features. Still, I would say that the DVD is most certainly worth owning because of how good the film is. That is why the overall score is not as low as it should be. If you are a DVD collector and are waiting for a special edition of some sort, I would hold off. If you just want the film and are not interested in extras, I would definitely pick up the DVD.


Note: Images in this review not from DVD source.