Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Water Diviner (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Water Diviner

Egad! Here is another "war story" set during the Gallipoli Campaign that is directed by and starring Russell Crowe. Crowe is in type as Joshua Connor, a father and water diviner,  who spends time in his aqua searching. Otherwise he is henpecked by his wife Eliza (Jacqueline McKenzie) who understandably berates him for the loss of his sons, Arthur (Ryan Corr) Edward (James Fraser) and Henry (Ben O' Toole) who go missing in the conflict during WWI.

Nothing much happens here. The sad and melancholy tone is reminiscent of Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" given its emphasis on torment and suffering. It is isn't that this film is bad or a turkey, just that it seems melodramatic at times while not really telling us anything new about the horror and sadness of war, let alone what to do about it.

Russell Crowe is a driven and brooding dad fretting in the soil.

Okay, we get it.

His face is stern and brooding but his expression is often so unvarying it seems like a mask. His forehead wrinkles on cue, without interruption.

But what else?

There is Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) who manages an inn and becomes a love interest, as well as a cute Turkish boy, Orhan (Dylan Georgiades), needing a father -- in a sub-plot similar to the iconic film "Shane" only not as interestingly fleshed out.

At times the film veers close to kitsch when Joshua is hit over the head with a huge wooden cross ("The power of Christ Compels you!") or when he is sitting in a bathhouse casually chatting with two other dudes.

Joshua's temper, accessorized with Indiana Jones's fedora no less, feels a bit corny as well, given Crowe's obvious machismo. He's quiet and reserved until you push his buttons and out, he solves everything with his fists. His Joshua acts like so many other Crowe roles, not to mention John Wayne. After you have seen so many Crowe knuckles, another flock tends to dilute the impact.

One element however, that outshines all, is the wonderful cinematography, the laser sharp lighting with rich reds and blues, reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelite painters Rossetti and John William Waterhouse. This quite seriously is the film's main draw. We also get a few haunting images of islamic ritual: women in gauze whose features become a surreal tableau of smooth paleness.

The film clearly shows Joshua driven to spasms by the call to prayer.

For the most part though, the energy that "The Water Diviner" could have created dribbles down to the stuff of a Hollywood "go or don't go" storyline under the dressing of a war film with its stock familiar characters.

We know that war is hell and a father's loss is tragic. If only Russell Crowe would have shown us a bit more than the usual muscle this could have been a feast in the East rather than a portrait in miniature.

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