The Ottoman Lieutenant | Would-be epic melodrama is ludicrous and offensive

Hera Hilmar Michiel Huisman

Hera Hilmar Michiel Huisman

In a land on the brink of war the most dangerous place to be is in love.

A cross-cultural love story set in Turkey during the First World War, would-be epic romantic melodrama The Ottoman Lieutenant carries more than a whiff of propaganda.

The heroine, played by Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar, is a headstrong young American nurse who has defied her upper-class Philadelphia parents to bring medical aid to a remote US mission hospital in Eastern Anatolia. And the hero, played by Dutch actor Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), is the dashing Turkish army officer who acts as her guide, saving her from swarthy Armenian bandits along the way.

Initially, the main obstacles to their blossoming love come from Josh Hartnett’s jealous American doctor and his crusty, ether-addicted superior (an eccentric Ben Kingsley), but tensions in the region are mounting and an invasion of Russian troops is nigh…

What with the mishmash of accents, and Helmar’s soporific voiceover, The Ottoman Lieutenant is ludicrous from start to finish. Yet what makes the film stink is its whitewashing of Turkey’s genocide of the Armenians. Still denied by Turkey’s government, the mass killings of up to 1.5 million people were taking place in Eastern Anatolia at the time the movie is set but barely impinge upon the lovers’ gloopy romance.

Certificate 12. Runtime 111 mins. Director Joseph Ruben

The Ottoman Lieutenant debuts on Sky Cinema Premiere on 27 December. Available on DVD & Digital from Universal.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.