In my mind my old pal Russell Crowe is a guy who doesn’t do anything by halves. He’s an actor who throws himself into roles, whether it’s brutal tough guy Maximus or disturbed genius John Nash. So when I found out Crowe would make his directorial debut with The Water Diviner I fully expected him to put his all into it. While The Water Diviner isn’t perfect it’s a film full of warmth and shines a light on a period of history that doesn’t get much attention.
Set at the end of The Great War, The Water Diviner tells the story of an Australian father travelling to Turkey to find the bodies of his three sons that died in the Gallipoli campaign. While there he is helped by a Turkish general (from the losing side of the war) to look for their bodies and an epic story of love, loss, and reconciliation with wartime enemies. I don’t want to bog this review down with discussion’s about the historical accuracy of the movie. There definitely was an Australian man who went to Gallipoli to search for his children but the rest of the film is obviously artistic license. This doesn’t stop The Water Diviner from being a touching tale of the lengths a father will go to to be with his children.
Technically the film is mostly successful. Crowe’s directing is simple and not flashy giving the film an old-fashioned feel and I mean that in a good way. There are some stunning shots of the Turkish landscape and a warmth to the cinematrography. It also doesn’t shy away from the horror of the trench warfare of The Great War. There’s a haunting scene where the camera pans up from the warzone with the only sounds being the cries and moans of the injured and dying soldiers. It’s a scene that stays with you.
Now I’m not someone who seeks out controversy or who gets offended by anything and everything but I’d like to point out something that I feel is comically xenophobic. I’m talking about the portrayal of Greeks in the movie. When they arrive the Greek army appears to consist of orcs from Lord of the Rings. They’re swarthy, dirty, and evil and I’m almost sure at one point one of them declares his love of ‘man-flesh moussaka’. I don’t know a lot of Greek people so if you’re from that part of the world let me know what you think of this.
Aside from this Greek tragedy, the cast give solid performances. Russell Crowe is always great and he’s well supported by Yilmaz Erdogan as Turkish Major Hasan and a great Jai Courtney as Lt. Colonel Hughes from the Australian army. Screenkicker favourite Olga Kurylenko doesn’t have much to do as the love interest but does well with what she’s given.
The Water Diviner is obviously a labour of love for Russell Crowe and this comes across on the screen. Its a very old-fashioned movie but in a good way. It won’t change your life but if you want a competent, heartfelt flick with good performances and stunning scenery then you could do a lost worse than Crowe’s directorial debut.
Have you seen The Water Diviner? Have you ever been attacked by marauding Greeks? How hot is Olga Kurylenko? Let me know in the comments below.
Screenkicker Quality Index (SQI)