The Water Diviner
- April 24, 2015
- Russell Crowe
- Russell Crowe
- Olga Kurylenko
- Jai Courtney
- Yilmaz Erdogan
- Isabel Lucas
- Cem Yilmaz
- Deiz Akdeniz
- Dylan Georgiades
- Megan Gale
- Damon Herriman
- Ryan Corr
- Jacqueline McKenzie
- Dan Wyllie
A fine, exotic adventure story with a solid cast.
Russell Crowe makes his directorial début with the post WWI high adventure drama ‘The Water Diviner’. Perhaps biting off more than this moderately budgeted film can chew. Mixing aspects of many war films that have come before with the scale of an Indiana Jones/Hidalgo type expedition. At its core, this is a simple story of an inconsolable father seeking the World War graves of his three soldier sons hoping to find some peace.
During The Great War at the brutal Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 all of Conner’s (Russell Crowe) three sons are reported killed. The tragic news devastates this Australian farmer leading to his wife’s eventual suicide. Three years after wars’ end and with nothing more to live for Conner leaves to find his sons’ remains and bring them home.
The film’s elusive title refers to Conner’s innate ability to “divine” water in the brutality dry Australian Outback. Combining those uncanny instincts with prophetic visions, this humble man WILL find his sons.
After reaching an “arrangement” with the local pastor (an unrecognizable Damon “Dewey Crowe” Herriman) to ensure his wife is buried in consecrated ground he sets out for Turkey, on the other side of the world.
Upon arrival, Conner is “hijacked” by a local boy seeking business for his mother’s inn. Although hesitant to rent a room to an “enemy” the mother Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) doesn’t have much choice. Post world war Istanbul isn’t getting many tourists.
Turkey may have “won” the Battle of Gallipoli but they lost the war and now the British have control over most of the country. And Conner finds nothing but bureaucracy in his attempts to travel to his sons’ battlefield graves. So, with the council of a growing sympathetic Ayshe, Conner finds an “alternate” route.
Australian Lt-Col Cyril Hughes (Jai Courtney) has been assigned the daunting task of locating the remains of all his fallen countrymen in Gallipoli–over 20,000(!) of them. Hughes seeks the assistance of Turkish Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) and Sgt. Cemal (Cem Yilmaz) who were both at the battle of Gallipoli…on the other side.
After Conner arrives at Gallipoli he finds resistance from the already overwhelmed Hughes. However, he gains an unlikely ally in Major Hasan. Hasan, more than most, realizes the human costs in this blood-soaked ground. Their partnership becomes a film highlight as these two expand their unique relationship beyond the battlefield and into the heart of a still war-torn Turkey when Conner follows his quest, where ever it leads.
Through his crisscrossing Turkish “adventure”, Conner continues to rely upon Ayshe and her son for help. This seemingly tagged on for Hollywood romance offers a mild distraction. Thankfully, Kurylenko gives “Ayshe” a good balance of nervous energy, ingrained anger, profound sadness, and misplaced(?) hope. Her husband was also lost at Gallipoli and this rugged, somewhat broken Australian offers her a much-needed surrogate. Crowe and Kurylenko keep up a decent, subdued chemistry that helps sell this somewhat silly pseudo-courtship.
The exquisite photography from “Middle Earth” veteran Andrew Lesnie carries this story above the mounting melodrama. And the flashback battle scenes add a potency otherwise missing. We see firsthand how these three brothers eventually meet their heart wrenching end, nicely paralleling Conner’s own weighted discoveries.
Side plots about the nasty British Captain who hounds Conner while in Turkey, a resident prostitute at the Istanbul motel, and Ayshe’s creeper brother-in-law add little value beside a couple of needless fights/chases and an air of unsettling carnality. As though Crowe was uncertain of the potency of the drama alone. So he keeps the action and sleaze quotient up, just in case.
Russell Crowe has all but perfected this tragedy-filled, reluctant hero type role and we see very little new from his performance. Making it no less enjoyable, however. Jai Courtney makes a brief, but memorable, impact as the thoughtful Lt-Col Hughes, “I’m not sure I can forgive any of us for what happened here.”
I really enjoyed Yilmaz Erdogan as “Major Hassan”. A world-wearied old soldier whose grounded, very human perspective on his always at war homeland resonates strongly. A well-developed, genuine partnership is shown between Hassan and Conner, both seeking redemption/resolution for past sins.
The film’s beginning offers the much lamented “Inspired by true events” statement. And I can only infer that “Inspired” is loosely interpreted. Somehow Conner manages to always find exactly what he’s seeking with help from these divine “visions” and he always evades capture (or worse) in perfectly timed fashion. Without encountering any genuine obstacles, this becomes a story on rails, with the inevitable “happy ending” always in sight.
I recently read elsewhere, “Happiness is boring.” Give our tragic hero some insurmountable obstacles to contended with, it’s film-making 101. Not only is it easier to palate, it’s a lot more meaningful. Nothing truly important in life comes free.
Nonetheless, ‘The Water Diviner’ provides satisfying adventure and poignant drama in a beautifully made and well-acted film. Just think of it as high-adventure and not a serious document of war. Recommended.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1
MPAA Rating: R
Length: 111 minutes