Director David Croenberg follows his masterpiece A History of Violence, with a companion piece also starring Viggo Mortensen, solidifying an apt director\muse kinship-- I hope they work together forever, they seem to bring out the best in each other. Eastern Promises is set in London, but like Violence deals with the same of themes of duality and moral ambiguity. Both films are subversive and stylish, made even more remarkable since Croenberg made them with big studio money, proving, I suppose, that big business and art can come together to bring a different and solid good time at the movies.
Eastern Promises starts with a randon act of violence that grasps us to furthur delve more, like A History of Violence, and while this film isn't nearly as satifying it's still a thrilling and involving mystery. The story centers around a midwife named Anna (Naomi Watts) who comes to the rescue of a baby born to a 14-year old Russian prostitute who died during delivery. Investigating through a diary left behind Anna becomes involved with the Russian mafia, and it's underbelly. Mortensen plays Nikolai, the driver of the mob boss' son Kirill (Vincent Cassel) and his father Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl.)
Working from a solid script by Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), Croenberg brings another provocative, intelligent, mature piece of filmmaking that enriches an already impressive filmography (he's arguably the most consistent filmmaker of his generation,) and gives Mortensen another juicy character to delve into-- it seems fitting to say that Mortensen has become a real artist under Croenberg's spell. In a scene already of legend, Nikolai nakedly and weaponless battles an enemy family in a sauna-- it's powerful and intense. In another, Nikolai's body is examined and tattoed. and this artisan is laying his soul on the line as if to say I give you my body.
Watching Eastern Promises it made me think of if Croenberg could make such a smart, subservise film under the studio system, why can't everyone else? I furthur thought about other true artists making their own creations within the restrains of big budgeted terrains-- Alfonso Cuaron made his Harry Potter his own, Spike Lee did his best work is in nearly a decade with Inside Man, what if Wes Anderson, sputtered out with too much artsy-ness was a director for hire a while, or maybe David Lynch; just an idea-- on the flip side maybe Michael Bay should, just as an experiment, make a film for under one million dollars-- just for fun. Eastern Promises--- B