It sounded like it had potential. It seemed like it could be a powerful story of faith and love of family. It might have been the beginning of a good directing career for Russell Crowe.
It was none of these things.
The story of an Austrian farmer (whom we see divine for water once and only once in the movie) who after the suicide of his wife goes to find the bodies of his sons who all died at the disaster that was Gallipoli. In amongst a torrent of heavy handed speeches about British Imperialism and Turkish Nationalism, Crowe’s character (I cared so little for this movie, I’m not even going to go look it up) is able to miraculously find the bodies of two of his sons (because water divining is magic and so is this character, maybe, apparently…it just kind of randomly happens without much explanation). He also is able to, in only a matter of days, make connections with high ranking members of the Turkish military and finds out that one of his sons is still alive and living in Turkey recovering from the emotional trauma of war. Oh and there is a random and entirely unbelievable love story thrown in there too for Crowe’s character with a Turkish woman he’s known for maybe a week.
Now to be fair Russell Crowe is not the sharpest tack in Hollywood and it hasn’t hurt his ability to be a rather good actor; and there are quite a few decent directors who aren’t going to be up for a Rhodes Scholarship anytime soon either, so it wasn’t a given that Crowe would be an abhorrent director. But he is.
I think the most glaring problem with the whole movie was its understanding of World War I. If you watched this movie and knew nothing else about World War I, you would be given to believe that Turkey was minding it’s own business when—BAM—the peace loving Muslims of Turkey were suddenly invaded by the British Empire for no reason whatsoever. And that during the war the Turks conducted themselves with nothing less than honor and a total adherence to justice and the rules of war. There is not the slightest suggestion that the Ottoman Empire was a barbaric tyranny so god-awful that when offered a choice between continued rule by the Ottoman’s or following a completely insane British nut job in a trek across the desert in a fool’s journey across the Arabian desert into certain death and an almost zero chance to take out the Ottoman’s, most of the Middle East said, we’ll follow the fruitcake into certain death, it’s better than the Ottomans. Nope the Ottoman Empire is portrayed as the poor victims in this. No hundreds of years of tyranny, no despotism…and somehow you have a movie that mentions Turkey’s conduct in World War I and never once mentions the genocide of the Armenians. Yep, let’s just ignore the butchering of over a million Armenians because…ummm…well either because we needed to not completely revile the Turkish soldiers Crowe’s character dealt with or because heaven forbid we do anything to ruin that little religion of peace myth. Or Crowe and writer (also not going to go look that person up) are so damn ignorant they just didn’t know—Also a legitimate possibility.
There was also some glorification of Turkish Nationalism in there. Anyone familiar with current Turkish politics knows that Turkish Nationalism is the last thing we would want to glorify at this time.
Oh and of course the British are the bad guys. Damn Imperialists, what with their stopping of genocide and ending barbaric tyranny.
As for the direction of the film, where to begin? Crowe certainly can’t direct an actor to a good performance. Now with Jai Courtney who has yet to turn in a performance beyond a passable level in any of the movies he’s been in, this is not much of shock. But somehow Crowe directed himself into one of the worst performances of his career (not quite as bad as Noah, but it’s down there). The editing and pacing of this film made me just wish the movie would end from about half an hour in. And worst of all not once but twice he uses a montage of scenes with an orchestral background and no dialogue to convey the growth of a relationship between Crowe’s character and some random woman. Really the entire development of their relationship is left to montage. It’s not surprising I couldn’t have cared less about this subplot, the problem being that for all the lack of depth it seemed to take up a third of the film.
I could get even more nitpicky—Crowe shows no potential as a director—but that would just be mean. Avoid this movie. It is simply not worth your time.
I give it 1 out of 5.