I wasn't particularly too excited for this film. Being an Australian film buff I know all too well how Australian films can get a person excited for something fresh and local before revealing oneself to you as a total piece of shit. That being said, 2014 has been an absolutely stellar year for Aussie film, seeing the release of the acclaimed post-apocalyptic, Guy Pearce-led The Rover, the chilling and truly brilliant horror The Babadook, the entertaining These Final Hours, and the Joel Edgerton-helmed Felony. In a year full of stand out Australian performances, The Water Diviner is no different, the film being, not necessarily the icing on the cake, rather the cake itself, pumped full with gooey chocolate goodness (or vanilla depending on your preferences). However, despite my original expectations, The Water Diviner is anything but vanilla. The wonderfully magnificent opening scenes of Russell Crowe attempting to find water in the Australian Outback sets a tone of a good, light-hearted, film with a strong Aussie twang. I was wrong. Sort of.
Whilst those themes are certainly evident, the film quickly takes an unexpected and gut punching turn as we discover that, four years after the Battle of Gallipoli, Crowe's Connor and his wife are still coming to terms with the fact that their three sons have been declared killed in action at Lone Pine. Without spoiling too much, the film clearly shows its audience where it is going with the sudden and emotional suicide of Connor's wife, spurring Connor to undertake her 'final' wish; to bring their boys home. By this it is assumed Connor will be bringing home the boys' coffins to bury with their mother but as it is apparent later in the movie, this may not be the case.
The adventure that follows is a moving and personal journey from the Australian Outback to Istanbul to the Dardanelles, a journey that is honestly quite wonderful, despite the bleak and occasionally graphic scenes(one of the characters bleeds out in no man's whilst holding his intestines; I told you it wrenches guts). Wonderful performances emanate from Crowe (obviously) as well as co-stars Olga Kurylenko as the beautiful but emotionally scarred Ayshe, and Yılmaz Erdoğan as Major Hasan, a head military officer who butts head with Connor early on in the film, before slowly forming an uneasy but necessary relationship. There is also, of course, an appearance by Jai Courtney as Lieutenant Colonel Cecil Hilton, the man in charge of finding and identifying the lost souls scattered throughout the Dardanelles (seriously though, this guy's in everything these days. HE'S FUCK*NG KYLE REECE. I'm not saying it's a bad thing. It's just a thing) However, this is not to say there are not flaws. Certain moments of the film seem slightly forced such as the first confrontation between Crowe and Erdoğan.
This scene in particular feels rushed as well as having little development shown on screen as to Connor's outburst towards Major Hasan other than some throwaway lines from a clearly unsettled (and dick-ish) Australian officer. Moments like this are present throughout the film, the fault being with the screenplay. However, these faults are usually rectified by some great performances and a dash of Aussie humor for good measure. Another fault I personally found a little distracting was the visual effects. Early in the film there is a flashback sequence involving Connor saving his sons on horseback from a rather deadly but beautiful sandstorm. As far as I could tell, the vast majority of the visual effects' budget was exhausted on this one scene, with other scenes heavy on VFX noticeably poorer, however this is to be expected from an Aussie production I suppose.
The Water Diviner is a truly touching and entertaining film that shows both sides of the Gallipoli campaign. With stellar performances, an engaging story and wonderful cinematography from first-time director Russell Crowe, it certainly met my expectations. With an ending that is very unexpected but extremely satisfying, The Water Diviner is possibly one of my favorite movies of the summer (it's not winter down here).