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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Ottoman Lieutenant movie review: erasing the past with sleight of cinematic hand

The Ottoman Lieutenant red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Odious propagandistic attempt to enshrine Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide of World War I into cinematic history via a tepid and unconvincing romance.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

In a land on the brink of war,” goes the marketing tagline of the odious The Ottoman Lieutenant, “the most dangerous place to be is in love.” That would not be true in, shall we say, the best of wars, if there is such a thing. But here, young American nurse Lillie (Hera Hilmar: Anna Karenina), volunteering at a hospital in a remote region of the Ottoman Empire, finds herself in the middle of World War I and the genocide of Armenians by the Turks. Except the latter is not happening here at all! This propagandistic production, financed primarily from Turkey — the government of which has a longstanding policy of denying that any genocide upon Armenians was ever committed — would like us to believe that 1.5 million Armenians were not exterminated with deliberate precision by the Ottoman Empire, but that it was just war and, you know, people die. *shrug*

“So we agree that she’s cute enough to distract everyone from genocide? Good!”

“So we agree that she’s cute enough to distract everyone from genocide? Good!”tweet

If only the most offensive aspect of this movie were the tepid, unconvincing romancetweet between Lillie and Ottoman Imperial Army lieutenant Ismail (Michiel Huisman: The Invitation, The Age of Adaline)! Or the male entitlement displayed by the American doctor (Josh Hartnett: 30 Days of Night, Resurrecting the Champ) who runs the hospital she’s volunteering at, who gets angry that she didn’t fall in love with him instead, as would have been right and proper. Instead, we have the disgusting spectacle of noble, oh-so noble Ismail expressing horror at the slaughter of an Armenian village — it wasn’t Ottoman soldiers who did this, one traumatized village woman assures him, nosiree — and rescuing innocent Armenians being shot by nasty slovenly lowly rogue soldiers, bad apples all. Oh, the price this fine upstanding example of Ottoman soldiery will pay for standing up for the good Armenian people! What garbage.

“I thought I was going to change the world,” Lillie narrates at us as the film opens, “but of course the world changed me.” This is a movie that is trying to change the past by erasing it,tweet by enshrining “alternative facts” into cinematic history, and by distracting you from its denial with a nice white lady falling in love with a handsome and honorable soldier. This is a denial of genocide close to a par of that which denies WWII’s Holocaust of the Jews, and everyone involved in this production — including also Ben Kingsley (The Jungle Book, The Walk) in the cast, director Joseph Ruben (The Forgotten, Return to Paradise), and screenwriter Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia) — should be ashamed of themselves for abetting it.

Click here for my ranking of this and 2017’s other theatrical releases.

red light 0 stars

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The Ottoman Lieutenant (2017) | directed by Joseph Ruben
US/Can release: Mar 10 2017
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: rated R for some war violence
BBFC: rated 12

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Tanya Bridgewater

    I’ll have to remember who all these actors, producers and the director are so i can make sure never to watch a movie they appear in again.

  • Jonathan Roth

    Ugh, that’s horrific.

  • Tamer

    get your facts straight and do not attempt to be a historian. Your article sounds scripted by the Armenian hate lobby that has paid off similar bloggers with the exact same wording. note, 1.5 million Armenians lived in the Ottoman Empire in 1914. In 1919 after the war, there were 1.3 million. 200,000 died mostly due to starvation. What happened to the Armenians in Eastern Turkey was no genocide. The Armenians had 50,000 troops that had been massacring Turks, Kurds, Jews, Circassians, Laz for decades prior to 1915. 3,000,000 Turks died during the Armenian expansion with the help of Russia. Armenians were armed better then the Ottomans and were more numerous in the East in 1915. 1915 was when almost all of the Ottoman Army was in battle in Gallipoli, which was an invasion by Britain, France, Italy and Greece. During the same time, Russia was invading from the East, while the rest of the Ottoman Army was fighting off rebels in Palestine, Libya, Syria, etc. Note, almost all of my family was killed by Armenian mercenaries so i know what happened from eyewitness accounts, not from scripts or forged documents the Armenian bigots often use.

  • danoog

    Tamer is obviously a shining example of the Turkish educational system.

  • Nataniel12

    Tamer, wake up you’re having a nightmare. It’s okay, so what if your ancestors killed and mutilated your Armenian neighbours, women and children. It’s okay, if you go and see The Ottoman Lieutenant you’ll feel much better and then go back to sleep. The Turkish government is with you on this, it’s okay.

  • Nataniel12

    Quality is not the issue here, this is a hastily made propaganda film to counter the Armenian sponsored “The Promise”. Both films have fictional characters except one is a sinister attempt at whitewashing the Armenian genocide, while the other, “The Promise” is a tribute to the millions of lives destroyed by the Turkish authorities. A fact!

  • Timuçin Öztürk

    Actually “the promise” is a sinister attempt at Armenian propaganda and the Ottoman lieutenant is actually giving the true versions of 1915 events.

  • Timuçin Öztürk

    I can’t believe what i read. You are actually critising the movie for not being what you learned from your media? Are you critising science fiction movies because aliens speak english, cowboy movies for not shoving Native American genocide etc? This article is not a movie critic but an attempt from the writer to shove her beliefs down from our throats!

  • RicoSuave

    This should be played as a double bill with “40 Days of Musa Dagh”

  • nick

    Interesting how this movie comes out right when “The Promise” is also premiering. This is chicken shit at it’s finest! Tamar, I think you are full of shit!

  • nick

    Learned from media???? How about our grandparents??? One grandparent after another, after another….Hey fool, other than ones that were forced converted to Islam, why do you think there are no more Armenians living in their indigenous homeland (Armenia) IE Eastern Anatolia?….Fool!

  • O. M. G.

  • Anna

    Will you see The Promise Maryann?

  • Nataniel12

    The only difference is: The Genocide of the Armenians did take place, and this film is trying to gloss over it, just like your dictator ruler, Erdogan and his cronies want.

    Pathetic display of Turkish racism and arrogance.

  • E.E

    My region in Erzurum was an Armenian capital before the ww1! Even the names of villages were kept as Armenian such as “Norgah, Kompur, Eskens, Varkur,”

    During 1915 events, people might have killed each other mutually, but it does not mean genocide, but history calls it just a war.
    What dear Armenians mention in their social media propaganda is in 1914 and 1915, Armenians revolted, and Turkish state carried them to another place to ensure the life of Turkish citizens.Even it is known that Ottoman Empire protected Armenians against Armenian rebels.

    I think you Armenians are just trying to create a foundation of mutual enemy so you guys have something to bring you together as a nation!
    So called Armenian genecide does not have any historical evidences or background. Sorry just don’t try to bring up couple different photos from 1914 archives. Remember it was Armenians revolted against Ottomans in order to found a new Armenian state. In 1914, when the first world war started, Armenians started to kill Turkish people with the provocation of Russia, and upon this, the assembly of Ottoman Empire decided to carry the Armenian citizens out of Turkey, to various places, so as to ensure the security of Turkish people.its not a propaganda! My village in Erzurum still has a mass graveyard where my ancestors killed by their own Armenian neighbors! There are hundreds of graveyard in a small city just like Erzurum! What would you expect?Even it is known that Armenians killed thousands of Turks in the eastern Turkey when Turkish settlements were defenseless as all Turkish men had joined in the army to fight and defend their country against Russia, France, the UK, Italy, Greeks and Arabs during the First World War. Can you imagine Mexicans are revolting against Americans by the help of Russia. Thousand of Americans killed. What would you do! Yes! People have the right of protecting themselves . A century later would you called it genocide or a war against terrorists! That’s right! Can you change the characters of the story now we are getting somewhere huh?
    And I am begging you could some Armenian answer my question These days, it is used as a political oppression on Turkey by several countries with the provocation of Armenians. When the Armenians were carried to other places, they produced these so called facts in order to keep their identity alive, united.
    I know no Armenians would except what said they even don’t involve in a productive conversation about the issue even though president of Turkey called an independent committee to resolve the issue, invited the Armenian side! What happened? Armenians denied the independent research by historians n keep dwell on a so called genocide act!
    Please any Armenians out there who believes this so called genocide I am just begging you to answer this question!
    Why National Archives of Armenians in Yerevan from ww1 era is locked? No one can reach any documents from that era! Why why are you guys not letting any historian to do a research in your archives even though Ottoman archives are open the the public online or authentic with the translation of many different language! Until you guys open your national archives to the public you have no right to blame a nation who kept you in a safe heaven for 600 years n without assimilating you! That’s not fair!

  • E.E

    There are many Armenians business men families high rank state officials in Turkey! How many Turks are there in Armenia? Any Turkish journalis? Any business men? I bet 0! Who is racist then?

  • What happened to the Armenians in Eastern Turkey was no genocide.

    Historians disagree.

    Your article sounds scripted by the Armenian hate lobby that has paid off similar bloggers with the exact same wording.

    You’re adorable.

  • the true versions of 1915 events

    Citations needed.

  • You are actually critising the movie for not being what you learned from your media?

    Hilarious! You think Western media has covered the Armenian genocide? It hasn’t.

    Are you critising science fiction movies because aliens speak english

    I’m pretty sure I *have* done that, actually…

    cowboy movies for not shoving Native American genocide etc?

    So, you’re admitting that the Armenian genocide has been ignored in much the same way that the genocide of Native Americans has also been ignored? I suppose that’s progress.

  • Probably.

  • During 1915 events, people might have killed each other mutually, but it does not mean genocide, but history calls it just a war.

    Funny, that’s just what the Turkish government says too!

    I think you Armenians

    I am not Armenian, or of Armenian extraction, or have any ancestors from that region, as far as I am aware.

    So called Armenian genecide does not have any historical evidences or background.

    Historians disagree.

  • Nataniel12

    There are many Jewish intellectuals/business people/artists parliament members in the EU and Germany itself. How many Germans are there in Israel?

    What an idiotic, worn out so-called argument and to “prove” that what? absolutely nothing.

    By The Way: If there are Armenians in Turkey now that is only because they are the remnants of an indigenous minority that trace there ancestry on their homeland by three millennia, way longer than any Turk set foot on those holy lands. 0.01 % of Turkey’s population in 2017 where there were 14% of the Ottoman population in 1915.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    What gives you the impression any Armenian in the world gives two shits what you think?

  • E.E

    So what’s your point? Why do you relate yourself to this conversation? Can you answer my question? If the so called historians are disagre why The national Archives of Armanians are locked ? Also there are many American historian who also have many articles about so called genocide! You can not find even 1 letters between ww1 countries talking about so called genocide! So if you don’t have any scientific argument you better shut up!

  • E.E

    Hi! Can you answer my question please! Why Nationa Armenian Archives from WW1 era is locked to the public? Why do you guys hide in there?

  • E.E

    So how many Turks again live in Armenia? You passed my question? Can you answer why is National Armenian Archives are Locked? No you can’t! Because you still dwell on “Turks are not natives of Anatolia” BS! So what! It’s been 1000 year axactly we concurred Anatolia and because of Ottomans you were able to protect your cultural haritage for 600 years! You are still a poor country with nothing but hate filled books and media! How many Turk CAn live in your country?

  • Nataniel12

    Many Turks, Yezidi kurds and Iranians live in Armenia, what is your point?

    The National Archives are only “closed” in the propagandist (read: sick ) minds of Turkish nationalists. You are welcome to pay a visit, but I’m sure you won’t, because you’re only interested in worthless propaganda drivel.

    Coming from a Turk with it’s National Archives well cleansed, “sparkling clean”…. is beyond laughable.

  • E.E

    That’s not accurate! The national Archives of Armenians are locked and not open to the public! And instead of puking racist slurs please try to explain how can I reach those archives from WW1 era! For at least 17 years I ask this very simple question to Armenians and not one person answered my question! This is why you guys don’t get in a mutual discussion about this issue! So immature! Every time instead you swore, made racist comments and attack me personally! I am sorry your ancestor stabbed Ottomans on the back in order to establish their own country! You know what happens when you are in a war? You probably die! And I am sorry for those Armenians who suffered the most kids and women because of their own Armenian terrorist caused them a big harm, lost the trust and had to migrate to another land! Stop playing the victim! Get your facts straight and find a answer to my question! Why do you thing the most important archives for this issue in the world are locked?

  • E.E

    And I am so sorry to deal a bigot just like you who think cleaning a archive is like bleaching a sink. If you don’t trust our Archives show me another eveidena, any letters written and sent between the countries in WW1 mentions the so called genocide! There is not even one word about genocide but forced migration because of revolting Armenians! Truth hurts

  • timuinztrk

    Funny, our grandfathers say that Armenians made a deal with Russian army during wartime and strike to the Turkish villages from behind, massacring civilians. Maybe you must ask your grandfathers about it. And please ask them what happened to Azeris living at Karabag at 1992.

  • timuinztrk

    Will you call it a propaganda movie too? Because it is, you know.

  • timuinztrk

    Historians disagree?

    Which historians? Funny that you forget to mention plenty of historians says there was not a genocide.

  • timuinztrk

    “Historians disagree.”

    Funny that many historians also agree. Oh by the way, did you ask yourself why nothing happened to the Armenians living at the rest of the country? At 1915, millions of Armenians were living at Western Anatolia and Istanbul. If there was a genocide, why nothing happened to them? Armenians of Eastern Turkey made a deal with Russian army and betrayed Turkish during wartime! And as a result of it, they were sent to other areas of the Empire, just USA did to US Japanese citizens at WW2. That is no genocide, stop crying.

  • Danielm80

    You think that comparing something to the Japanese internment during WWII makes it sound better? Dear God.

  • Why do you relate yourself to this conversation?

    I am the writer of the review you are commenting on! Your comment called me Armenian, which I am not.

    So if you don’t have any scientific argument you better shut up!

    You are invited to leave this forum.

  • We are not Armenians. You are not talking to Armenians. We are not hiding anything.

    Please take your nonsense elsewhere.

  • You are now banned from this forum.

  • This movie has nothing to do with 1992.

  • I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I cannot tell if it’s propaganda. Have you seen it?

  • There are also “historians” who deny the Holocaust.

    Take your crap elsewhere.

  • We are NOT adjudicating the Armenian genocide here.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    What gives you the impression I give two shits what you think? I’m even less interested in your conspiracy theories about conspiracy theories. Go sell crazy somewhere else.

  • Nataniel12

    E.E. Have you stopped for a second and realized that for 17 years you have been asking a question but not listening to the answer???? I just told you that the archives are open, not every Tom, Dick and Harry can waltz in in any nation’s national archives, same is true for Turkey. Go to Yerevan with the proper historian’s credentials and you can have an access to information. You asked a question and you received an answer.

    Now what part of my comments to you consider as racist? could this be a case of projecting one’s own prejudices unto others?

    please grow up, and start smelling the blood of millions of CHristians perished in the name of Turkish nationalism, and yes, racism.

    readers here are getting bored with your juvenile reasonings.

  • timuinztrk

    “Take your crap elsewhere.”

    Ha ha ha! So you can not defend yourself against the truth.

  • timuinztrk

    Yeah, let’s ban one side of the discussion. Then we’ll only hear what we want.

    By the way, what gives you the impression I give two shits what you think? lol

  • timuinztrk

    Good, because there was no Armenian genocide. Case closed then.

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