Russell Crowe’s baptism as a director might not be perfect but deserves applause for initiative, ambition and heart.
Based on the horrific outcome of the Battle of Gallipoli (1915), where over a thousand Turkish and Allied Powers were annihilated, the result of an unsuccessful attempt by the Allies, striving to gain control of the sea route from Europe to Russia in WW1; many enlistees were idealists from Australia and New Zealand.
Crowe depicts Australian farmer (water diviner) “Joshua Connor” who lost three sons in the massacre; the metaphor of finding water in a vast, arid landscape versus his quest to discover the graves of his boys, lacks even a trace of subtlety. It is 1919 and after a three-month, Ulysses-trek, he arrives in Constantinople where he meets hotelier “Ayshe” (beautiful, demurely sensual, Olga Kurylenko), her adorable, precocious son “Orhan” (Dylan Georgiades) and glum, lugubrious, wise “Major Hasam” (empathetic performance by Yilmaz Erdogan); the fire and intensity of the film wanes when addressing the mores of a widowed Muslim woman; possible intimacy between Joshua and Ayshe; locomotives under siege. The flashbacks, scenes of death and ravishment are pungently authentic.
Russell Crowe’s “Joshua Connor” garnishes respect, even admiration but unfortunately like Angelina Jolie in “Unbroken” Crowe became too emotionally, intellectually involved in the protagonist and his formidable tale; he failed to generate specific, deserved interest in the political repercussions and subsequent antagonisms.
The architect of the Battle of Gallipoli, First Lord of the Admiralty of the United Kingdom, eventually stated “war which used to be cruel and magnificent is now cruel and squalid”: Sir Winston Churchill.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!