The Water Diviner movie review (2014)
Russell Crowe‘s directorial debut, “The Water Diviner,” tells the story of a widowed man, Joshua Connor, who embarks on a quest to find his three sons who disappeared during the battle of Gallipoli in Turkey. Unfortunately, the film suffers from a lack of focus, torn between being an anti-war drama and an adventurous tale filled with heroic clichés. While Crowe’s charisma as an action hero is undeniable, it clashes with the film’s attempt to question traditional he-man myths.
The movie’s central theme revolves around the consequences of instilling heroic ideas of war in the minds of young men, a point powerfully made when the protagonist admits to his role in shaping his sons’ beliefs. However, “The Water Diviner” undermines its own message by indulging in the very “heroic nonsense” it criticizes. This contradiction is evident in scenes where Connor displays acts of bravery and daring, reminiscent of a John Wayne figure, which conflicts with the film’s antiwar stance.
The inclusion of mystical elements in the narrative further complicates the film’s tone. The mystical undertones, akin to “Star Wars,” feel out of place in a story set in the 19th century. Connor’s ability to find answers and see detailed flashbacks through a spiritual connection detracts from the film’s serious approach to war and history, making it seem more like a storytelling shortcut than a genuine exploration of the human experience.
Moreover, “The Water Diviner” struggles to find a balance between the historical context of the Gallipoli campaign and its own fictional narrative. The film’s release date, coinciding with the centennial of the ANZAC forces landing at Gallipoli, raises questions about the appropriateness of focusing on a white Australian’s personal journey in the midst of such a significant historical event. The immense human cost of the Gallipoli campaign is overshadowed by Connor’s individual healing journey, leaving the film feeling disconnected from the realities of the war.
Additionally, the omission of the Armenian genocide, which occurred during the same time as the Gallipoli campaign, adds to the film’s problematic portrayal of history and politics. The lack of acknowledgment of this tragedy is a glaring oversight, making the film appear tone-deaf and disrespectful to the victims and their descendants.
While “The Water Diviner” manages to evoke horror and emotional turmoil in scenes depicting the ordeal of Connor’s sons and the brutal realities of war, it falters in its portrayal of violence. The film’s approach to violence vacillates between detached scrutiny and a video-game-like fascination, creating an inconsistent and unsettling viewing experience.
In conclusion, “The Water Diviner” is a film that struggles to find its identity. It attempts to be both an anti-war drama and an adventurous tale but fails to reconcile these opposing themes. Crowe’s powerful performance and directing skills are overshadowed by the film’s lack of focus, historical inaccuracies, and problematic portrayal of war. Ultimately, “The Water Diviner” falls short of delivering a cohesive and meaningful cinematic experience.
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