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THE WATER DIVINER
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Russell Crowe, Olga Kurylenko, Yilmaz Erdogan, Cem Yilmaz, Jai Courtney, Ryan Corr, James Fraser, Ben O’Toole, Isabel Lucas
Director: Russell Crowe
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 111 Minutes
Release Date: July 28, 2015

Hope’s a necessity where I come from.”

Film ***1/2

Who better to helm an Australian adventure saga than one of the biggest stars to emerge from the outback. With The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe makes his directorial debut in addition to headlining the cast. The result is something grand in scale that would easily rank alongside the early works of Peter Weir, who coincidentally directed Crowe in Master and Commander.

And Weir is a necessary comparison since the events in this film are somewhat related to that of Weir’s 1981 film, Gallipoli. But whereas Weir’s film was about the very war that took place during World War I, The Water Diviner is focused more on a character’s journey, with the war kept mostly in the background. Crowe’s film, I think, serves as a perfect companion piece to the earlier work by Weir.

Set in 1919, the story tells of Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Crowe), who has a knack for discovering areas of flowing water underground. Since most of the land has suffered a drought, the finding of such a resource is a much glorious occasion. And such joyous discoveries help Joshua forget how tragic his personal life is, as his three sons have perished in the battle of Gallipoli.

After his wife’s sudden suicide, Joshua is determined to do the very thing he promised her. That is to journey to Turkey to find his sons’ remains and return them to their home. Thus begins his journey as a stranger in a strange land.

Once in Turkey, he finds refuge in a hotel owned by a woman named Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko). She is sympathetic to Joshua as she also lost her husband to the war. He also gains an unexpected ally in the form of Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) who assists Joshua in his search for the remains even as various military officials attempt to prevent him from entering sensitive territory.

Both amazingly shot and extremely intimate in its depiction of grief, loss and personal redemption, The Water Diviner is an experience that delivers. Crowe wasn’t given a pricey budget, and yet he was able to capture the landscapes so vividly well, with a production crew that made the most of what they had, resulting in a film that looks most epic. To look at it, you’d swear it cost more than 4 million.

On the basis of this film, Crowe very much has a future as a high class filmmaker. He definitely has it in him to create work to stand along some of the legendary directors he’s worked with in the past, like Ridley Scott and the aforementioned Peter Weir. The Water Diviner is one of the best efforts from an actor-turned-director to come around in quite some time.

Video ****

A hands down breathtaking presentation from Warner. On Blu-ray, the consistent outdoor photography of both Australia and Turkey is given endless, amazing detail. Colors are marvelous too, as illustrated by the sun-baked landscape.

Audio ***1/2

A superb DTS HD mix is supplied for this release. There are numerous sequences of war battle that provide terrific dynamic surround playback. Dialogue delivery and music playback are balanced out to perfection as well.

Features **

Included on this Warner Blu-ray are two featurettes; “The Making of The Water Diviner” and “The Battle of Gallipoli”, which takes a look at the battle which as it turns out took place 100 years ago.

Summary:

The Water Diviner is high quality filmmaking from a well suited first timer in Russell Crowe. It is both grand in capturing the period and setting as well as personal journey of its central character. It’s the sort of classy adventure saga we really don’t get much of these days.

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