Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Water Diviner

Back in 2012, Russell Crowe announced he would be directing a biopic of cult comedian Bill Hicks – one of my personal heroes. I was very excited at this prospect as I’m sure a lot of you dear readers are. Who doesn’t love Bill Hicks? But 3 years on, we have been given no update on this production. I don’t know if it’s still even happening. So, Mr. Crowe…If you’re not going to make us our Bill Hicks film what have you made us instead? Something just as good, I hope…

Directed by Russell Crowe and out now on Blu-Ray & DVD comes The Water Diviner. If you’re wondering where this film has come from, it’s understandable. The film was pulled from most UK cinemas after a week or two. Whether this is due to lack of interest or the controversy (which we shall discuss later), I couldn’t say. But it certainly didn’t get as big a release as Crowe’s films usually get. In The Water Diviner, Crowe stars in the lead role as Joshua Connor, an Australian farmer who embarks on an adventure to Turkey in search of his 3 sons who served in the Battle of Gallipolli and are presumed dead. Claiming to be based on a true story, it’s a rather unoriginal historical drama. So, with the plot being not much to talk about…is there anything else to talk about, with a story-driven film like this?

The Water Diviner is a visually beautiful film – the final film of Academy Award-winning cinematographer Andrew Lesnie – and is darn wonderful to look at. This is helped by an immensely high quality production; costume, sets and shooting locations are all superb. But unfortunately, the film itself is a rather underwhelming piece. It feels like a bit of a case of style over substance. As discussed the narrative is all a little predictable and unoriginal – right down to the cliché romance with Olga Kurylenko’s Ayshe thrown in for no real reason. It doesn’t feel like anything new or interesting, and fails to draw you into its story. And yet this isn’t the main issue I had with The Water Diviner. No, the main issue I had is that this film certainly lives up to its marketing as effectively being Russell Crowe: The Movie. Directing and starring in the lead role, Crowe is clearly loving every minute of his own company here. Hell, in his first scene he strips down to a vest and gets himself all sweaty digging a well, before going home for a little shower scene, just in case you missed his GUNS a few minutes earlier. 

The Water Diviner is Crowe’s directorial debut, so it’s only natural he’ll take any opportunity to attempt to re-establish himself as a bit of heartthrob. It’s certainly not an opportunity he’ll get if he decides to star in the potential Bill Hicks biopic he’s working on. But his involvement in the film has invited other more political controversy. A Facebook page, currently standing at BLAHBLAHBLAH likes, is still going strong under the name ‘Protest and Boycott The Water Diviner’. For those unfamiliar with the controversy, it goes a little something like this. Descendants of the victims of the Greek, Armenian and Assyrian genocides were outraged at the portrayal of the Turks as victims, despite the film being set at the time they were committing genocidal atrocities. This distortion of historical fact resulted in a protest letter campaign which claimed the film to be ‘…a distortion of history that only serves to appease Turkey and its continued agenda of genocide denial’. In particular, there is no mention whatsoever to the Armenian genocide – and yet, Russell Crowe and Warner Brothers released the film on the 24th of April. Why is this significant? The 24th of April is the exact day Armenians commemorate the genocide. It’s not my place to say whether this is a coincidence or not, but you can understand why some see the film as controversial.

In conclusion, The Water Diviner feels like nothing more than an ego trip for an ageing heartthrob desperate to be the hero once again. He’s decent enough in the lead role but is a bit wobbly behind the camera, and his potential hidden political agenda and the film’s controversy distract even more from the already mediocre film.

The Water Diviner earns 2/5 for visuals and production, but the film’s many short-comings stop it from earning any more.


Sam Love

The Water Diviner at CeX

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