HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Water Diviner
HTS Overall Score:83
A water diviner is someone who is supposedly adept at the art of finding water. Back in centuries past people claimed to have the ability to “sense” where water was and were employed to ascertain the best location for a well, or to find liquid in a parched desert. Many used devices such as a divining rod, wherein they would use it and supposedly said rod would jolt when the presence of water was near.
The year is 1919, 4 years after the battle of Gallipoli, one of the most influential and devastating battles of pre American WWI. We hadn’t gotten involved at that point, but amongst the Australians, the British and Greeks it was one of the most sobering battles, with thousands lost on both sides of the conflict. A father, Connor (Russell Crowe) is living with the sadness of having three boys die at that battle. His wife is mad with grief, sometimes lucid, and sometimes believing that the boys are right there. When she decides to take her own life, Connor, a water diviner, heads off to Turkey in an effort to find his boys bodies and bring them back home. Upon arriving in Turkey, he has his work cut out for him. He doesn’t speak the language, the British have no interest in helping him and he’s no closer to finding his sons.
Refusing to give up, Connor slips across the water and smuggles himself right into the British forces who are trying to dig up all the remains of the dead soldiers and identify them. Headed by Lt. Colonel Hughes (Jai Courtney), the British are ready to send him packing when liaison from the Turkish army, Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan), reminds the Lt. just why they are digging these bodies up in the first place. Finding the youngest two in the battlefield, Connor’s journey is almost at an end. That is until they realize that the oldest, Arthur, is nowhere to be found. Tipped off by Major Hasan that Arthur’s name shows up on the prison records of POW camp, Connor has to defy EVERYONE in his way to prove that one of his sons is still alive.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50473[/img]I wasn’t deadly certain what to expect when going into “The Water Diviner”. I knew it was Russell Crowe’s first time in the director’s chair, and that was about it. That alone made me a little nervous as first times are usually the roughest and I’ve been burned lately by great actors trying their hands behind the camera. Here Russell is not only directing, but starring in it as well. I had heard that it swept up the Australian version of the Oscar’s quite handily so I went in with an open mind and came out VERY satisfied. The passion and intense love for the story material was very obvious as Crowe handles the sensitive subject of war and loss with delicate kid gloves. The film is obviously antiwar (as most sane people are), but doesn’t do it with a sledge hammer of political yammering. Not once is credence given to either side of the conflict, and not once is there any heavy monologue about the foolishness of governments and their desire for war. Instead Crowe focuses on the devastation of the aftermath. People die in war, and we understand that, but many times the aftermath can be as bad for the soldiers and the loved ones at home as the actual combat itself. Families are torn apart, left jagged and raw as pieces of them die on the battlefield. Parents crying their eyes out at home as their loved ones never come back. Wives left as widows, and sons left as orphans. The tragic painting is painted with blood, sweat and a myriad of tears, with the outcome bittersweet to say the least.
The characters themselves are the best part of the entire film. Crowe is a great character actor, and he does a fantastic job as the beleaguered parent, struggling to find his boy. His relationship with Major Hasan, is wonderfully done, and their sort of respectful friendship is a tad unrealistic in such a short time, but relatable to the audience and certainly one of the more nuanced bits in the movie. I did find a few issues and that mainly had to do with a few unrealistic spots, some bits that just felt a bit too “Hollywood” if you know what I meant. The main one dealing with the last few moments of the film. Olga Kurylenko plays the hotel owner where Connor abides during his stay in Turkey and she is suffering from the loss of her husband in the same battle. She and Connor are instantly at odds due to her blaming Connor for invading her country and taking her husband away. This same conflict is what brings them together as they are able to bond of both losing someone. Their relationship in hinted at some hidden attraction, but really it handles itself quite well as a friendship. I was begging Crowe not to put in the stereotypical love story that blooms over the course of a few weeks in typical Hollywood fashion, and it seemed to be going that way until the very end. With that being said. The slight distraction of that romance doesn’t take away from the rest of the movie much at all, as it seems more of an afterthought than anything. I only wish they had kept it as a friendship instead of adding in the romantic angle as the movie very clearly didn’t need it at all and probably would have been more true to the source had it kept it out. But, Ce la vie.
Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50481[/img]“The Water Diviner” comes to Blu-ray with a simply stunning 1080p encode. 99% of the film is set in Turkey and as such, Russell Crowe applied some heavy color grading to the material. Some of it is swathed in an ash blue grading, while other moments are heavily saturated with a mustard yellow layer to imitate the yellowish hues that one associates with sand and Islamic world. Other times we see little to no grading at all, mainly in some of the outdoor scenes and the end bit with Arthur. Detail is fantastic throughout, with every bit of grit and sand caked skin apparent to the naked eye. The luscious colors and ancient historical buildings of Turkey look INCREDIBLE and the array of costumes are simply sumptuous. Black levels are incredibly strong, showing off plenty of shadow detail, although sometimes that shadow detail is marred by the parts that carry that mustard yellow color grading. However, that is a small issue and one that doesn’t keep me from enjoying this fantastically shot film.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50489[/img]I wouldn’t have expected a post war drama like “The Water Diviner” to have as an engaging audio track as it does, but I have to say that the 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is REALLY REALLY well done. The opening of the movie is at the battle of Gallipoli with guns blasting off, cannons roaring with power and heavy caliber machine guns tearing up the soundscape with deep and impactful LFE. The plink of bullets, the explosions of mortar shells and the cacophony of war is all around, engaging the surrounds with near constant activity. Now the modern moments as Connor is exploring turkey are much more low-key, with a front heavy set of dialog and minimal surround support, but the constant switching between the present and the battle of Gallipoli keeps you on the tips of your toes audio wise. Even though the major war is over there are several skirmishes that Connor is engaged in and those moments are just as visceral and aggressive as the battles of the past, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at all 6 channels. Simply stellar from beginning to end.
• The Making of "The Water Diviner"
• The Battle of Gallipoli
I love being surprised by films, and “The Water Diviner” certainly surprised me. Given nearly no marketing and coming with an unassuming front cover, I expected a melodramatic drama that tries to tug on the heart strings and fail miserably. What we got instead was a very entertaining and well crafted tale by Russell Crowe, solidly directed and well-acted. There are several issues in the pacing and a few script ones as well, but I was VERY impressed at Crowe’s first attempt at a film. I enjoyed it immensely for its simplicity and the obvious love and care that he spent in doing the movie right. Coming with stellar audio and video, I have to say that you owe it to yourself to give it a watch. Definitely recommended.
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jai Courtney, Olga Kurylenko,
Directed by: Russell Crowe
Written by: Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasios
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 111 minutes
Own “The Water Diviner” now on Digital HD or on Blu-ray or DVD July 28th
Buy The Water Diviner On Blu-ray at Amazon
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