“Eastern Promises” (2007) is a fierce and enthralling drama-thriller starring Naomi Watts as Anna, a midwife in a London hospital who loses a 14 year-old girl in childbirth, and is left in the care of the girl's newborn daughter as well as her personal diary. In search of the child’s rightful family, Anna pieces together clues that pinpoint Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a ranked dignitary within the Russian mafia, as her only source of further information.
Anna’s efforts lead her into direct confrontation with Semyon as well as his driver/enforcer Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), as she seeks information on the identity and whereabouts of Anna’s next of kin. Nikolai harbors his own personal agenda, as he seeks ascension within the hierarchy of The Bratva, while bearing the fierce recrimination of the Chechen mafia after a hit on one of their own elder statesmen. Ultimately, both Anna and Nikolai must face down Semyon’s menacing son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) along the course of their assiduous quest to locate the proper home for the orphaned child.
Written by Steven Knight and directed by David Cronenberg (“Naked Lunch”, “A History of Violence”) “Eastern Promises” is a dense and gripping affair, replete with dark intrigue and sequences of brutally forthright violence. Cronenberg brings his trademark macabre stylings to fore, as he delivers a high-touch potboiler that benefits immensely from Mortensen’s chilling, entirely no-nonsense performance. Under-appreciated upon initial release, it’s a quality sleeper film ripe for newfound appreciation.
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