The Promise

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Promise Movie Poster Image
War movie tells important story but is flawed, meandering.
  • PG-13
  • 2017
  • 132 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 15 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Wartime can bring out the worst in some people, but others are prompted to rise to the occasion, demonstrate courage, and work to save innocents.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mikael, Ana, and Chris are all well-intentioned and try to do their best in a very difficult situation. 


The film focuses on wartime genocide. Many atrocities are shown, including villagers being hanged in groups and soldiers shooting women, execution-style. Street riots leave people bloodied, buildings burn, and other scenes show soldiers brutally attacking unarmed men. Mass graves are shown.


A betrothed man gets involved with a woman who's not his fiancee. They kiss passionately and start to undress, though there's no graphic nudity. They're later seen relaxing together in bed. 


Very little, but at least one use of "s--t" and "hell." One man calls another a "bastard."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink at bars and parties, sometimes getting drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Promise is an earnest but disturbing wartime drama about the Armenian genocide in Turkey during World War I. Scenes depict graphic atrocities, hangings, beatings, street riots, burning buildings, mass graves full of women and children, execution-style killings, and other brutal, intense images. There's also some drinking (sometimes to excess) and kissing, as well as implied sex (no graphic nudity); language is very infrequent, but there is one use each of "s--t" and "hell." While it's not easy to watch, the movie does show how war can prompt some people to rise to the occasion, demonstrate courage, and work to save innocents. Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac, and Charlotte Le Bon star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byPopYY February 17, 2020
Adult Written byPatricia A. May 5, 2017

Excellent Cinematography!

As a first generation American Armenian, the movie was beautiful and portrayed the events in a touching & honest manner. From historical records, it de... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bytangledw February 3, 2021

Great Movie, needs to have mature person watch to fully understnd

I loved this movie!!!! So good. I wish they had left out the sex scene but other than that i wouldn't have anything against it. The scene is worse than com... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byjjjynn November 18, 2020

Must-see movie of immeasurable importance

Though at times the plot shifts slightly off course, this incredibly heart-wrenching drama is work of outstanding acting and immeasurable importance that will t... Continue reading

What's the story?

On the eve of World War I, THE PROMISE's Mikael (Oscar Isaac) leaves his village in Armenia to go to medical school in Constantinople. But when the Ottoman Empire enters the conflict, it becomes clear that one of its goals is to eradicate Mikael's countrymen. The army starts rounding up Armenians, killing women and children and using the men as slave labor. Mikael manages to escape from a work camp and meets an American reporter, Chris (Christian Bale), who's helping escort Armenian orphans to safety. Together, they try to help the remaining survivors from Mikael's village. Meanwhile, Mikael, who's engaged, falls for a beautiful Armenian artist, Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), with whom Chris is also enamored.

Is it any good?

Perhaps it's unfair to saddle a film that clearly has high aspirations with even higher expectations, but this drama simply doesn't live up to its, yes, promise. With a cast that includes top-notch actors like Bale, Isaac, and Shohreh Aghdashloo (who plays Mikael's mother) and with an important slice of history to shine a light on, it really ought to be better than it is.

What works? The acting, first and foremost; the talented ensemble brings to life a massive, brutal conflict that, to this day, many people still don't know nearly enough about. Also the cinematography, which frames this historical moment in an epic-yet-human scale. But the script, which spends too much time on the characters' love triangle vs. the wartime chaos and genocide, creates an imbalance from which The Promise, already overlong, can't quite recover.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Promise's violence. How does this kind of violence compare to what you might see in an action movie? Is their impact the same?

  • How do the characters demonstrate courage? Why is that an important character strength?

  • What role does the movie's love story play? Did you find it distracting from the main plot, or did it help humanize an epic war?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

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