THE WATER DIVINER
By Gary Murray
Starring Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko and Jai Courtney
Written by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios
Directed by Russell Crowe
Running time 111 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating Cable
International films have always been a part of Hollywood. It makes sense to craft a feature that will appeal to a broad audience of different languages. The latest has won a few international awards and is called The Water Diviner.
The story takes place during the time of the Battle of Gallipoli. Russell Crowe plays Connor who is a Australian farmer working the land. He has three sons and a wife. As the work starts, the wife is struggling and takes her life. It seems that Connor has lost everything. His three sons are all gone, all victims of finding glory, honor and adventure in war. As boys, Connor read to them tales of high adventure like The Arabian Nights.
It is a time of trench warfare, where the body count was high and the advancement of land was negligible. It was ugly, bitter fighting and the first of the modern wars where machines did major damage. It was very much modern 20th century warfare with 19th century attitudes.
Connor is a water diviner, a person who can use two special rods to find underground stream sources. We see this skill being practiced on his Australian ranch. We also see how much of struggle life is in Australia, with a storm almost taking the lives of the boys. It is one of the most adventurous beats of the cinematic work. When Connor’s wife dies, he knows that he must honor her last request—to bring their boys home for a proper burial.
Thus begins Connor’s odyssey. His travels take him to a village where he must get a room. Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) does not want to rent a room to the man. There is too much bad blood between the sides and peace is a precarious balance. There is a giant dynamic between East and West in culture. The two sides do not understand each other. But Ayshe’s son takes a liking to Connor.
Eventually, Connor makes it to the battlefield and finds the remains of two of his sons. It seems that one was shot in the head. There are no accounts of the death of the oldest son. A search of the records shows that the oldest son was taken prisoner. The next part of the film is Connor’s search for his son, a man he believes is still alive.
There is so much to like in The Water Diviner. The sets and scenes are brilliant, full of life and danger. One believes that they are watching history and not a movie. The battle scenes feel as if they are a part of real life, with pounding mortar shells and messy body parts. One feels the pains of being on the front lines of trench warfare and dealing with the bloody mess. The aforementioned storm scene is almost worth the price of admission. Here and there, there are thrilling moments.
The other thing to like in The Water Diviner is Olga Kurylenko. This former Bond girl has found a role that blends different cultures together. She is stuck in the ways of the old and still has to deal with an encroaching outside world. This dynamic drives her character.
The biggest fault is with the lead Russell Crowe. Over the years, he has become a lazy actor. He relies on grunting his lines at his fellow actors and not acting. While he would never allow others to perform at that one-tone level, he lets himself get away with it again and again. It is all one note and that note is a sour one.
But as a director of other people, Russell Crowe finds more success. He gives us all the action needed to propel the screenplay to the final reveal while still finding time for those little bits of detail that give the story life. In the end, he accomplishes this balancing act with a certain bit of style.
The Water Diviner is a film of an interesting time but not that interesting of a film. While it has elements to appreciate, the overall effect of the film is not the sum of its parts. A valiant effort but The Water Diviner is not a super successful final product for Russell Crowe.