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This year’s festival kicked off to a great start with opening film Eastern Promises, revealing an array of talent and excitement. Writer, Steve Knight created this edgy script exploring the Russian Mafia living in London with a reminiscent of the Godfather, raw and gritty brilliance. David Cronenberg, previously known for his work on A History of Violence (2005) portrays Knight’s vision with vigour and provides an insight into London, showing the grime, corruption and depravity, that is too often overlooked by romantic comedies such as Notting Hill, which show London through rose-tinted glasses. With excellent performances from Viggo Mortensen and Vincent Cassell, this is film not be missed. 


The story focuses on mysterious Russian, Nikolai Luzhin (Viggo Mortensen) who is the driver for a Russian Mafia family who belong to the Vory V Zakone criminal brotherhood. The organization base themselves in their family-run, Trans-Syberian restaurant which is the front to their corrupt activities. Headed by Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), a man who is a mix of charm and brutality and Semyon's volatile son, Kirill,(Vincent Cassell) we see the violent goings-on of the Russian Mafia. The film in many ways also revolves around the tight bond between Nikolai and Kirill. 


Anna (Naomi Watts) a midwife in a North London hospital, is woven into the dark, mafia underworld when she becomes deeply affected by the death of a teenage girl who dies whilst giving birth on her shift. She finds an address in the girls diary that leads her to the heart of the mafia organization. When she begins to enquire about the girl and wants to get the diary translated, Semyon is determined to stop her endeavours and protect his family’s corrupt secrets from being uncovered. Nikolai becomes fond of Anna, which brings him into danger. Muder, deceit and revenge ensue. 


However, the plot is multi-layered and not just about violence, it also discovers themes of love, loss, family and humour. It also shows glimmers of hope that can be found even in the dirtiest of places. As Sandra Hebron, head of this year’s festival explains “Eastern Promises offers light as well as shade, with promise indeed of good born out of evil”. 

With the general release of this film being tomorrow, 26th October – I would recommend this as a ‘Must See’.

 LL Hodgson, Oct 07

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