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The Water Diviner Blu-ray Review

The Water Diviner (2015) movie poster The Water Diviner

Theatrical Release: April 24, 2015 / Running Time: 111 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Simon Curtis / Writers: Andrew Knight, Andrew Anastasos

Cast: Russell Crowe (Joshua Connor), Olga Kurylenko (Ayshe), Yilmaz Erdogan (Major Hasan), Cem Yilmaz (Sgt. Jemal), Jai Courtney (Lt. Colonel Hughes), Dylan Georgiades (Orhan), Steve Bastoni (Omer), Isabel Lucas (Natalia), Salih Kalyon (Dr. Ibrahim), Megan Gale (Fatma), Ryan Corr (Art Connor), James Fraser (Edward Connor), Ben O'Toole (Henry Connor), Jacqueline McKenzie (Eliza Connor), Jack Patterson (Young Art Connor), Ben Norris (Young Henry Connor), Aidan Smith (Young Edward Connor), Damon Herriman (Father McIntyre), Sophia Forrest (Edith), Dan Wyllie (Captain Brindley), Christopher Sommers (Tucker), Benedict Hardie (Dawson), Michael Dorman (Greeves)

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After twenty-five years of acting in film, Russell Crowe makes his narrative feature directing debut on The Water Diviner, an Australian historical drama in which he also stars.

In "The Water Diviner", Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) enjoys the fruits of his labor, taking a dip in a water source he just unearthed.

The film opens quite epically with weapon-wielding men running about while the camera moves around. On December 20, 1915 in Gallipoli, the Turkish army drives ANZAC invaders to retreat. Four years later, we meet Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe),
an Aussie still dealing with the aftermath of that World War I battle. Connor possesses a unique gift, being able to find water deep in the ground, and dig a hole to go get it. Connor and his wife (Jacqueline McKenzie) are far from over the fact that their three sons disappeared at the Battle of Gallipoli and are presumed dead. The boys are among the millions of veterans whose bodies have not been recovered or identified.

After Mrs. Connor drowns herself, Joshua decides he will personally find closure by tracking down his sons. He travels to Istanbul and checks into a hotel run by Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), who is in denial that she is a war widow. Initially put off by the notion of housing an Australian, Ayshe comes to not only put up with Joshua's presence but even offers him some assistance in getting where he needs to be, while he bonds with her sweet young son (Dylan Georgiades).

Connor faces further resistance from officials of both armies involved in the battle, who are themselves trying to sort out the mess that is Gallipoli. Though his presence is forbidden, Joshua is able to convince Turkish major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) to let him look around. Applying the same gifts he uses to locate water, Joshua quickly finds the remains of one of his sons. He soon clings to hope that another of his sons could still be alive.

Neither Turkish major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) nor Australia's Lt. Colonel Hughes (Jai Courtney) is keen on the idea of letting a father look for his sons' remains in Gallipoli.

Written by Aussie TV vets Andrew Anastasios and Andrew Knight, The Water Diviner is passable drama that is presented in a reasonably compelling fashion by Crowe. Though a novice behind the camera (his past directing credits are limited to a short and documentary about his dissolved band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts), Crowe has enough experience in front of it to fashion something worthwhile here and hold our interest when the camera is pointed at him, which is often.

A film set one hundred years in the past has a good chance of proving unrelatable or dull for modern moviegoers, but Water Diviner is guilty of neither. Crowe and his writers do not get fixated on recreating period speech accurately or turning this into a history lesson.
The epic opening military scene soon subsides, paving the way for an intimate human drama that focuses largely on just one mourning man. The characterization does come close to being ridiculous, as Joshua repeatedly channels his apparently psychic gifts to know just where something happened, which flashbacks confirm are right on the money. The subject matter puts the film on the verge of being ludicrous multiple times, but it never falls off an edge or makes you stop taking it seriously.

A chaste romance developed between Connor and Ayshe feels more obligatory than anything else, but it never pulls focus away from the plot or slows things down, with the movie suitably wrapping up well before the two-hour mark. The film resists any urge to overextend itself with action, which is good since its few forays into combat flashbacks are difficult to follow (little effort is made to distinguish Connor's sons from their fellow Australian soldiers).

Despite a fairly substantial budget of $22.5 million, The Water Diviner was given limited release by Warner Bros. Pictures in North America in the middle of spring. It grossed just over $4.1 million there, barely one quarter of the modest $15.5 million it earned worldwide. Spared one of Warner's standard combo packs, the film hits Blu-ray and DVD separately this week, each fitted with a digital copy.

The Water Diviner Blu-ray cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: July 28, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($28.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Water Diviner impresses thoroughly on Blu-ray. The 2.40:1 picture is as sharp, detailed, and clean as you expect a new film to be. Even better is the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack, which makes an impact early with glass-rattling bass in the booms of David Hirschfelder's original score. The film has attention-grabbing sound design at a number of additional points throughout, but is mixed evenly enough that you don't have to keep reaching for your remote to adjust volume levels. It's practically home theater demo material, which you might not expect for a film you could blink and miss in theaters. Some, but not all of the infrequent foreign dialogue is translated by burned-in English subtitles.

Russell Crowe addresses the camera from close distance in "The Making of 'The Water Diviner.'" Just one of the boys: Russell Crowe lifts a kettlebell with his on-screen sons.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Water Diviner is joined by two HD featurettes on Blu-ray.

Evidently composed of a number of topical shorts,

"The Making of The Water Diviner" (21:48) is a little unusual, with its use of score, (briefly) rap, and Crowe's soulful narration. The thorough piece covers everything from acting workshops out of which casting came to the cast's physical training to behind-the-scenes looks at filming, costume design, arms, and so on.

"The Battle of Gallipoli" (7:52) discusses the history dramatized, putting the movie's narrative into better context.

The disc opens with a trailer for The Man from U.N.C.L.E., followed by a promo for digital copy. Neither is accessible by menu and Water Diviner's trailer is only integrated into the making-of featurette.

The static menu temporarily plays score over a reconfiguration of the poster turned cover art.

An insert supplying Digital HD with UltraViolet directions and code is all that joins the plain black disc inside the unslipcovered eco-friendly keepcase.

Olga Kurylenko plays Ayshe, the probable war widow who lets Joshua stay in her Turkish home/hotel.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Russell Crowe makes a decent directing debut on The Water Diviner, a post-World War I drama that compels and stops short several times of inviting ridicule. Warner's Blu-ray offers great picture, outstanding sound, and a nice couple of extras. It's a disc you'll want to watch at least once.

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Reviewed July 28, 2015.



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