David Cronenberg is one of my favourite directors and now you have no excuse for ignoring my recommendations, because 2007’s Eastern Promises is currently on iPlayer.
After a Russian teenager dies in childbirth in London, Naomi Watts’ midwife discovers her diary and ends up taking it to a Russian restaurant to be translated. The trouble is, the restaurant’s owners belong to the Russian Mafia, including Vincent Cassel’s reckless drunk and Viggo Mortensen’s enigmatic driver.
It’s one of Cronenberg’s more conventional films, playing out as a straight thriller rather than his trademark body horror. But that’s not to say Eastern Promises is dull or safe; there’s still plenty of throat-slittingly bold violence and moments of real tension. But it’s also remarkably sweeter than old-school Cronenberg, with relationships and characters we actually care about. There’s a warmth to this movie that his more detached horror films deliberately lacked.
This is also due to the cast, most notably Cronenberg’s frequent collaborator Mortensen, one of my favourite actors. He’s always effortlessly cool and charismatic, but with intensity and depth beneath the surface. He completely inhabits his Russian character, having studied his background in detail as he does for all his roles. Cassel is also on fine form, reprising his role as “creepy foreigner” with his uniquely frightening screen presence. Watts turns in a good performance too, though I’m less optimistic about her playing Princess Diana in the upcoming biopic we’ve all been so desperately waiting for.
The roll call of Cronenberg’s friends continues with the amazing Howard Shore providing the music, as he has done for all but one of Cronenberg’s films. His soundtrack has shades of The Godfather about it (though obviously nowhere near as good), lending the film a rich atmosphere. Overall, Eastern Promises feels like a completely satisfying movie. And you see Viggo Mortensen’s penis.
Eastern Promises is available on iPlayer until September 3rd.