The Water Diviner gives Russell Crowe his first shot as motion picture director. Originally released late last year in Australia and New Zealand, it’s just now dribbling out one theater at a time in the U.S.
Water diviner? Dribbling? Maybe not the best choice of words.
There isn’t much water divining done, though Crowe’s Connor is a man who’s good at the ancient craft. The film is a war drama set in World War I. Connor lost all three of his sons in the Battle of Gallipoli in Turkey. After his depressed wife commits suicide, Connor goes there to find the bodies and return them home.
The journey is arduous and filled with danger. To find the bodies among the 46,000 allies and 65,000 Turks who were killed is a daunting task.
The name of this movie’s game is where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Like many actors turned director, Crowe can’t resist starring in his own movie. Or maybe that was the deal with the producers. Star in the movie and we’ll let you direct. Whatever happened, he’s not awful as a director but his movie is nothing special either.
It’s written by Andrew Knight (TV’s legendary Full Frontal) and is based on an historical novel by Andrew Anastasios and Dr. Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios. Some of the story is quite interesting, but the parts that are not dominate the movie.
The tale’s biggest flaw is a ridiculous romance between Crowe’s Conner and Olga Kurylenko’s Ayshe. She’s a Turkish woman who owns a boarding house with her brother-in-law and who lost a husband in the same battle.
The only real energy in the film comes from Yilmaz Erdogan, who plays Turkish Major Hasan. He helped drive the allies from his land, only to find his country under British control at the end of the war. He and Connor forge an uneasy truce. Erdogan is troubled by war and by death, but respects his enemy as much as he hates them.
In a movie lacking surprises or much in the way of believable movement, it’s a blessing.
As for Crowe, you get the sense many times that he’s distracted with director duties. But Crowe is a strong actor and always does solid work. Here he’s undone more by an iffy story and sometimes rather poor dialogue, than by his or the performances by Erdogan or Kurylenko ( Oblivion, Quantum of Solace).