1914 probably sounds like a fateful time for an American nurse to travel to
Ottoman Turkey. Perhaps you are thinking of the Armenian Genocide, in which the
Muslim Ottoman Empire systematically murdered 1.5 million ethnic Armenian
Christians, but oh how wrong you are. It is significant because nurse Lillie
Rowe is swept off her feet by the dashing Ishmail Veli. Genocide? There’s no
genocide here. There’s just a spot of rough-housing that gets out of hand in
Joseph Ruben’s historical white-wash, The
Ottoman Lieutenant (trailer
which opens this Friday in New York.
feels stifled by Mainline Philadelphia society, so after listening to an
inspiring fundraising speech from Dr. Jude Gresham, she resolves to ferry an
ambulance stocked with medical supplies to the American clinic in Anatolia.
Unfortunately, her humanitarian aid is hijacked by Armenian bandits (those
villains will do it every time), but at least she arrives safely with her nurse’s
training, thanks to her escort, Lt. Veli.
the cynical clinic director, old Dr. Woodruff is less than impressed by her naïve
do-gooder impulses, but Gresham is delighted to have her on staff. However, he
is quickly frustrated by her flirtatious friendship with Veli and their habit
of frequently crossing paths. She in turn is alarmed by his secret
collaboration with the Armenian resistance—a clear violation of Starfleet’s
he intended to or not, Ruben (best-known for the Julia Roberts melodrama, Sleeping with the Enemy) hired onto a
Turkish funded propaganda production that does its best to confuse, obscure,
minimize, and ultimately deny the Armenian Genocide. Imagine a film set in
1930s Germany whose only Jewish characters were gangsters and cut-throats.
Essentially, that is what we have in The
Ottoman Lieutenant. Frankly, most of the bad stuff in the film is committed
by Armenians. Granted, we witness noble Lt. Veli save a group of Armenian
civilians from execution late in the third act, but that incident only seems to
be there to suggest any atrocities were the unsanctioned work of low-ranking
screenwriter Jeff Stockwell is not rewriting history, he gives us scenes of
Veli and Rowe taking in cinematic vistas and cooing platitudes at each other,
like “it’s like being inside God’s thoughts.” Michiel Huisman and Hera Hilmar
have zero chemistry together, but his devil-my-care attitude wears better than
her scoldy earnestness. Josh Hartnett is just embarrassing as the tightly wound
Gresham. However, Sir Ben Kingsley lends the film some dignity and authority as
the haunted Dr. Woodruff.
This film is an affront to history and a
troubling indicator of Hollywood’s Dhimmi inclinations. Supposedly crimes
committed by the Ottomans (all 1.5 million of them) need to be understood in a
wartime context and probably weren’t that bad in the first place, whereas the
racial segregation that appalled Rowe in Philadelphia is an original sin for
which America can never be forgiven. Maybe we could forgive the film if the
performances and dialogue were less wooden, but such was not the case. Not
recommended under any circumstances, The
Ottoman Lieutenant opens this Friday (3/10) in New York.
Labels: Josh Hartnett, Propaganda films, Sir Ben Kingsley