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Father on a mission

Russell Crowe stars in his directorial debut, The Water Diviner

Kim Taylor-Foster

Reporter:

Kim Taylor-Foster

Father on a mission

The Water Diviner  (15)
Running time 1hr 41 min
Rating   ***

ANTIPODEAN tough guy Russell Crowe may have trouble with accents (Robin Hood and The Next Three Days spring to mind) but he certainly doesn’t have any trouble playing gung-ho Aussie everymen. In The Water Diviner – a passion project he also directed – Crowe is a farmer with an inherent knack for water divining, whose three teenage sons head off to fight in the battle  of Gallipoli during the First World War. When they fail to return, he makes it his mission to find his three missing boys and heads of to Turkey, determined to let nothing get in his way.

What starts as a low-concept tale about one man’s single-mindedness migrates into a war drama by way of high-concept Hollywood action flick, with elements of mystery thriller tossed in. By the end, his character’s encounters and close shaves see him perform feats of which Indiana Jones would be proud – one of which involves a cricket bat. Topped off by a love story, it’s fair to say that The Water Diviner covers all bases. The tone that develops throughout the film sits awkwardly with the realism of its opening. However, the moment of reveal, where we finally discover the fate of the brothers, is extremely powerful, depicting the horror of war and its toll on the individual (as well as the families left behind) to shocking and emotive effect.

An educational insight into the volatile situation in the country during and after the invasion (it sparked the Turkish War of Independence), The Water Diviner is enlightening. And despite the fact there’s a dearth of women in the film, it baulks at portraying love interest Olga Kurylenko in a two-dimensional way, refusing to paint her situation as black and white. Highlighting female roles and cultural attitudes to these from both insiders’ and outsiders’ perspectives, Olga’s opinion is ambivalent – although you may well wonder how easy it will be for her to carry out the choice she makes at the end of the film, in light of the film’s suggestion it’s going to be happy ever after. The film up to now has raised enough issues to leave us with our minds ticking over.

A bit Saving Private Ryan, a bit Peter Weir’s Gallipoli (Crowe calls it a companion piece), it also recalls Angelina Jolie’s recent Unbroken – and though it’s peppered with faults, it’s definitely better than that.

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