Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 51 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for War Violence including some Disturbing Images
Directed by: Russell Crowe
Written by: Andrew Anastasios & Andrew Knight
(based on the novel THE WATER DIVINER by Andrew Anastasios & Meaghan Wilson-Anastasios)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, James Fraser, Yilmaz Erdogan, Jai Courtney, Cem Yilmaz, Ryan Corr, Jacqueline McKenzie & Isabel Lucas
THE WATER DIVINER, based on a novel of the same name, marks Russell Crowe’s first film where he’s pulling double duty. Aside from starring as the main character, Crowe also directs this magical realism tale with an iffy eye behind the camera. There were clearly good intentions in every part of WATER DIVINER and the story is interesting, but the actual execution of the material makes for a mixed bag of a movie.
World War I has come to a close and Joshua Connor, an Australian father, has lost all three sons as a result. His boys were all killed on a single day in the battle of Gallipoli and their deaths have taken a toll on Connor household. After his wife commits suicide, Joshua sets out to recover his sons’ bodies from the battlefield in order to give them a home burial. Connor’s journey takes him to foreign lands where he’s not exactly a welcome visitor and begins to give him a new lease on life when he’s given a reason to hope again.
WATER DIVINER is a good-looking film and well acted for the most part. Russell Crowe plays Connor quite well as a man who is bound and determined to bring his (deceased) family together again. Olga Kurylenko is great as a hotel owner in Istanbul who takes a reluctant shine to Connor. There’s nothing of poor quality in the performances given by the entire cast, nor in the beautiful locations where this film was shot. However, technical flaws in post-production stick out like a sore thumb. WATER DIVINER loves using slow motion to an unhealthy degree. The (many) scenes in which it is employed don’t really need it to hammer home the tragedy inherent in a post-war society either. The slow effect itself looks cheap too as if Russell Crowe unnaturally slowed down the frame rate in a shoddy video program. There’s not a huge need for special effects in this film, but one scene with unconvincing CGI fire was distracting. Finally, the music in this film ranges from inspiring to downright schmaltzy. The worst of these moments comes in a TWILIGHT-esque montage of two people having a dialogue-free conversation while obvious romantic music booms over the scene.
The technical flaws are the worst part of WATER DIVINER as the rest of the film is, at the very least, interesting. The ways in which the movie captures the devastated emotions on both sides of the war are entirely sincere. There’s a sense of true loss throughout the film as many people seem to forget that World War I was just as horrific as World War II. The globe had never seen a conflict this large break out before and massive losses were taken everywhere. Pieces of dialogue and subdued performances really hit these points home. On the lighter side of the story, Crowe and Kurylenko have believable chemistry together and though their romance was predictable, I enjoyed watching it play out. There is a definite magical realism side to this film, but it seems largely ignored, except for when it makes for a convenient plot device.
WATER DIVINER is a so-so film as a whole, but that’s not because of its script. The story may skimp out on its magical realism a bit too much, but the film was compelling enough to keep me interested. The technical side of things is where I had problems. Cinematography, performances, and locations are all solid, but the post-production values, special effects and an overly annoying soundtrack really put a damper on the film. I can definitely see people loving THE WATER DIVINER as well as those saying that it’s mere a ego-driven project for Crowe. I fall somewhere in between. The story wasn’t perfect, but problems of a first-time director (even for an actor as experienced as Crowe) are definitely evident. WATER DIVINER is a middle-of-the-road movie for me. Not bad, but not necessarily good either.