Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Water Diviner

Year: 2014
Director: Russell Crowe
Cast: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, Jai Courtney

Plot: Four years after his three sons were killed at the Battle of Gallipoli, a man travels to Turkey to locate their remains and bring them home.

Review: The Water Diviner marks the directorial debut of Russell Crowe, which he also stars in the lead role. While his direction may not be perfect, he is still able to tell a story well.

Crowe plays Joshua Connor, a water diviner in Australia who has lost all three of his sons at the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915. When his wife commits suicide over her grief, Joshua decides to travel to Turkey and locate his boys' remains. The quest is however easier said than done, as both the Australian army seeking collection of their dead and the Turkish people trying to rebuild their country after the fall of the Ottoman empire, provide obstacles in his path.

Crowe deserves praise for one thing; despite his lead character being Australian, the focus on this film is more towards the Turkish people. Viewers get to see their customs and culture, and all of the Turkish characters, save for one, are sympathetic, kind and reasonable towards Joshua. I loved how Crowe pays attention to their culture, as something as basic as a traditional dance or a song turns out to be quite intoxicating for the viewer to behold.

The cinematography and pacing are also good, the former most visibly obvious during a sandstorm scene. Crowe keeps the story moving smoothly, never including any scene that has no purpose to the story, and for that he should be commended. There are also a few battle scenes that were well shot, even though it isn't overly bloody but intense enough to satisfy war fans.

However, I found his performance as Joshua to be rather subdued. It works more often than not, but one gets the feeling that he put more focus on his directing duties than his acting here. Olga Kurylenko turns in a good performance as Ayshe, a Turkish hotel owner who assists Joshua despite disliking him at first. Olga doesn't quite look Turkish though. Yilmaz Erdogan is quite memorable as Major Hasan, the Turkish commander who tries to help Joshua in his quest. It's odd though that fellow Australian Isabel Lucas was cast as Ayshe's Turkish friend, though it's not a major part.

While Crowe's direction is steady enough, I would have liked him to put more detail into certain things, like the passage of time in the story or how a scene moves to the next one. Granted, it's his first film as a director so he can learn from this experience.

Overall, The Water Diviner is a solid attempt at directing by Russell Crowe. It has its flaws but it's a good story well told, and it deserves a watch. (7/10)

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