Eastern Promises

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Christopher Bligh

Plot: What’s it about?

In all fairness, this reviewer thinks when it came to giving the Best Picture award in 2005, the Academy gave its prestigious honor to Crash but it was another year where they gave it to the wrong picture and that picture wasn’t even nominated in that category. It was A History of Violence and the effect it left through its short running time still sticks with me and reminds me of what the real Best Picture was that year. A few years later, director David Cronenberg gives another intriguing tale set in England and told in another short running time but when a tale like Eastern Promises can be told in this visionary’s eyes, one asks “Who’s paying attention to the clock?”

A slit throat and a pregnant girl give off blood to tell two intersecting tales of a diary of that girl discovered by a midwife (Naomi Watts) and the translation by a older gentleman (Armin Mueller Stahl)who holds rich parties. Unknownst to her is a slick haired Russian chauffeur who notices her motorcycle and is an indicator although it’s memorable and nice inside, things are not what they seem for its a front for an underworld of many dirty dealings including two sides playing off each other and a power struggle that leads to another life created in this dark world.

When I had first viewed this film, I felt that something might have been missing in the middle. Sadly, that was a result of tiredness. On second viewing, I viewed a much better film that had something in the middle but left me wanting a follow up right away. Yes it leaves some unanswered questions but I had gotten so involved with the film that I honestly didn’t want to see it end and felt this was the first part of a bigger film. But despite that, Eastern Promises done very well and truly a film that benefits from repeat viewing and with all the solid acting and storytelling by all I say bring on the second tale if at all possible.

Video: How does it look?

Eastern Promises is made spherically in the 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and the picture is pretty solid and hardly any softness in the color in the warm palette of many colors in this film and nothing presented it better than the scene where we’re introduced to what’s inside but beautiful food and music. It’s beautiful visually and this DVD transfer captures in equally. There’s hardly any flaws on the dark and light scenes in the film and each frame is held together nicely so overall a very good job.

Audio: How does it sound?

The Dolby Digital 5.1 is not tested for a lack of bullets and sudden noises throughout the film where the majority soundwise is a mix of Howard Shore’s score and the dialogue of the film and both result without any disruption and the side channels get some action but not much here and there other than the few sounds of the motorcycle and representative of a film whose primary reliance is not on sound. Despite that, the track is fine and is decent for this kind of film. This disc also has a DD 5.1 French track along with English, Spanish and French subtitles.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This edition of Eastern Promises contains no trailer for the film but does start the DVD to include the trailers for Atonement and Lust, Caution so if either one of those films do not contain them on their proper DVD you can find them on here. In addition are DVD spots for Reservation Road and Canvas including one big hoot, a promo for the advantages of the now deceased format known as HD-DVD.

After that, 2 featurettes are included in the special features section. The first Secrets and Stories goes into the casting choices as well as the environment David Cronenberg wanted to bring to the screen and most of the cast put their seconds of input in during this ten minute solid piece and it’s followed by Marked for Life that focused on a little more of the research Viggo Mortensen went into right down to the tattoos seen and their creation used on his body throughout the film. Both are quite good but knowing the past releases of Cronenberg movies, this viewer wish there would’ve been an extra treat with a commentary track by the director but alas this release does not include one. Another notable absence was its use of subtitles within the transfer. This was shown as it was theatrically in the featurettes but on this disc, the subtitles are done not within the frame but outside it. This viewer would’ve preferred it kept as it was theatrically.

As this viewer felt another chapter in the Eastern Promises story could and should be told ending wanting more but satisfied either way, the DVD gives a nice representation with the look and feel but despite the solid featurettes, like the movie hopes there can be a little more in the future for it deserves a commentary and its original trailer but their absence doesn’t take away from the impact from the film which packs quite a punch clothed or unclothed.

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