At the time of the writing of this review, there was 51% of the reviews having 10/10 ratings, clearly Turkish influenced names, on brand new accounts. The second largest pile of votes was the 1/10 votes calling it propaganda. Clearly, the Turkish and Armenian contingents are in the house making their largely ineffectual votes known. They clearly don't know that IMDB's algorithm chucks a percentage of the extremist votes to reduce the gaming effect of political voting like we're seeing on this film.
As for the film ...
The cinematography and score are fantastic and the technical crews deserve some kudos, as does costuming. Normally there's several glaring historical inaccuracies in the props or setting that I can point out, but in this film we're down to only a couple and they are not glaring. The slide show in the opening of the film had me scouting out when the slide projector was invented, and it's a bit of an anachronism.
The acting is generally decent, but the script is maudlin, somewhat forced, and generally devolves to stereotypical behaviours, so I felt that more could have been wrung out of the cast if the writing had been stronger. Drunken Cossacks in winter fur hats and greatcoats? Drug addicted doctor using ether to sleep? Come on ...
Hera Hilmar seems terribly miscast. Her American accent is terrible, and her entire look screams 21st century woman in a 20th century melodrama. Too much make up, too thin for the era ... nothing seemed quite right. Hartnett is above average, as is Kingsley, Hulsman is suitably charming and attractive. The relationship between Ismail and Lillie suffers the most from the writing, seeming rushed and poorly supported. Both actors work hard to sell it, but it's a tough sell with that thin skeleton.
The plot is, as I've mentioned, a bit forced and contrived. The very fact an American dilettante is sailing across the world to Istanbul in the first place is a huge stretch. As many as 1 in 5 people in the Ottoman Empire were slaves near the end of the 19th century, and sex slaves were still being sold on the open market in Istanbul at the outset of WWI, though slavery was officially outlawed at the time. A single, naïve, attractive American woman traveling alone? She'd vanish.
If you accept this premise, though, the story is generally OK. The one man assault on the Russian held armory had me laughing. No mufti, no explosives in hand, no plan, no assault team, just a one man stroll into an enemy held stronghold. Good lord, what tripe.
So, politics aside, this was a generally entertaining film. It was beautiful, and it made me want to explore that region and see it with my own eyes. But being lovingly made by artists with film and sound cannot offset the poor writing and somewhat poor casting. It's a good date movie, I suppose, but a better foundation for the core relationship would have really helped improve this film.