When I heard Russell Crowe was directing and starring in a WW1 film, I had the unpleasant notion that he would probably cast himself as the entire Allied Forces and portray himself winning the war single-handedly. So I was taken by surprise when I actually enjoyed The Water Diviner.
The background story involves Connor (Crowe), an Australian outback farmer, and the loss of his three sons at Gallipoli. In search of their remains and answers to what happened to them, he hops on a boat and travels to Turkey. Once there he tries to discover their final resting place, and also befriends local war widow Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) and her son. As the mystery around his sons deepens he develops a ‘like/hate’ relationship with a Turkish general (Yilmaz Erdogan), whom he holds accountable for the death of his sons but who he must also rely on for information on the area and the activities during the war.
The cast are mostly ‘unknowns’ and range from excellent acting through to cringe-worthy moments. Crowe certainly does his best to act the part of the grieving father and, whilst it is not the traditional teary-eyed war film viewing, you do want his character to find a moment of salvation in amongst his anguish. The storyline is uncomplicated with no real surprises. In the end I was reminded of a Sunday Evening Show; the sort of thing TV One likes to play to fill in the viewing slot after 8.30pm.
As a proud New Zealander one of the few annoyances I found with it was Russell seemed to forget that the NZ in ANZAC stands for New Zealand. We fought bravely there too – a mention even in passing might have been nice! Apart from that it was two hours well spent, and would certainly appeal to a wide audience (although the battle scenes might prove a little much for younger viewers or those who get squeamish easily).
This isn’t a blockbuster, nor is it the most gripping war movie ever made, but it is well done for a directorial debut – and no doubt will appear on our TV screens every second or third ANZAC day as a half-decent ‘down under’ movie about a bleak time in the world’s history. Go and see it in the cinema, or maybe donate the cost of the movie tickets to the RSA and wait for it to come out on DVD.