Review: In ‘The Water Diviner,’ Russell Crowe Revisits Gallipoli

Mr. Crowe directed and stars in this story about an Australian farmer who journeys to Turkey years after that World War I campaign to find his three missing sons.

Comments: 29

  1. Another hatchet-job by the frigid Ms. Dargis.

    The Water Diviner is a gorgeous, intelligent movie, filled with rich visuals from exotic locales, and a touching story built around historic events that too few of us know today. I was completely captivated, and genuinely surprised by the twists that occur in this engaging script. How often do we see Turkish generals portrayed as protagonists, or witness the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, while an Australian seeks to learn the fate of his three lost sons? What a joy not to sit through another clanking "Transformers" with CGI-effects in place of a plot, or another pointless soap-opera like "Cake." "The Water Diviner" is the kind of movie that many us wish we could see more often.

    In this first foray, Russell Crowe proves to be a promising new director who is capable of the epic sweep of the celebrated director David Lean. Why can't Ms. Dargis encourage this director to hone his craft further instead of mocking it? I hope Mr. Crowe continues to develop this skill. I look forward to his next directorial feat, and I bet that many who view "The Water Diviner" will concur with me. We need more movies like this.

  2. It sounds like you're auditioning to be a film critic.

  3. Did he find his three Sons?

  4. While I don't really disagree with any of Ms. Dargis' criticisms of this film, I have to say that I loved it and I welcome it nevertheless. It is visually beautiful like OUT OF AFRICA, and tells a tall, entertaining yarn. That is what big commercial movies are for, after all. Some exterior explanation is needed, in order for a non-Australian to "get" this film: The disastrous Australian troop losses at Gallipoli had their peculiar paradoxical role in forming the Australian national character. There is a legend of Sapper S. Kelley, the former head of Kelley & Bassett, civil engineers from Melbourne, finding water by a piece of bent copper band and saving the day for thousands of Australian troops. One does understandably bring to a film about Gallipoli the expectation that the Armenian genocide will be featured. Just as not every story about WWII needs to be about the Holocaust, so does not every story about Gallipoli need be about those atrocities.

  5. I loved this film also, though I could, through some twisty intellectual maneuvering, understand Dargis's complaints. Those complaints are exaggerations, however. There's a lot to like here. See it.

  6. This is a historical drama, not a documentary. Just thought I'd point that out. The reviewer seems to have missed that not so subtle difference. Rarely do historical dramas stick strictly to the facts. We, as a supposedly intelligent audience, are suppose to know that before we sit down to view a film that is "based on history". We also have to recognize that first and foremost it is a drama and anything else is only self-delusion.

  7. Dargis doesn't like Russell Crowe, he's too stereotypically masculine for her tastes.

  8. Maybe he's just too masculine for her tastes, forget stereotypes.

  9. Just another film featuring politically correct heroes and villians.

    Craven, evil and greedy white people.

    Good, upright and noble, everyone else.

  10. Wow. Does anyone ever review a movie for this paper and like it? Or must it include subtitles, incest, or a long list of terrible, sordid and loathsome events? Or just a recitation of the reviewer's fact list of history? This is another sneering, pot-shot-filled wedgie directed at an actor the reviewer doesn't like. We get it. You hate Russell Crowe. And this review is yet another reason that I've almost completely stopped reading them in this paper.

    I admire anyone who takes a shot at directing. And anyone who puts their work out there and lets others take shots at it. No matter what kind of person Mr. Crowe may be, when he's on the screen, I can't stop watching him. He's terrific. And hey, NYT, most of the time, people just want to be entertained and escape from their daily lives.

  11. Hooray for the Philistines!
    Down with Art criticism!

  12. I have thought this for years!

  13. I can't wait to watch a movie not based on a comic book.

  14. I always enjoy Manohla's reviews, but wow. I guess you can reduce almost everything human down to testosterone bursts and estrogen clouds, but do you really want to.

  15. This film is a dud, sorry Russell. It wasn't even a hit in Australia.

  16. HEY ! - I love Russell Crowe - BUT - this movie was just ridiculous. Let alone all the historical inaccuracy - it was just nonsense.

  17. Who goes to the movies to learn history? Most people I know go because they want to be entertained, to be swept away from their real life for a time and become engaged in a story of other lives and/or times. If we want non-fiction, we see a documentary. This film is a fictional account of a particular time and place and specific people. It is not supposed to be a real, true, depiction of the events it portrays. I see no problem with it not being historically accurate. It's just a story. Nothing to get all worked up about.

    I happen to enjoy Russell Crowe on screen, and I find him very engaging. I think he's generally a very good actor. I usually like his movies and will probably like this one.

  18. Ms. Dargis,,

    Its readily apparent your dislike for Russell Crowe. And I so agree with the other gentlemens assessment.

    If you feel you can do better in handling two varying viewpoints while trying to be fair to both sides by acknowledging the loss the Turkish/Australians/NewZealanders experience, please by all means, obtain the appropriate funding , develop and write your screenplay, work in conjunction with casting agents, proceed to direct your interpretation!

    he may not be to your liking but does your disdain for him cloud your critical judgement?And the criticisms you leveled a long go re:Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious I have never forgotten.

  19. This reviewer evidently does not understand the importance of Gallipoli for Australian and NZ identity. These countries had terrible casualties, quite proportional to Britain's, but this was Britain's fight, not theirs. Crowe's character gradually gets wise to the swindle that was World War 1. The Turks remind him that "you invaded us," and he acknowledges to his living son, now a reclusive icon painter, that he'd failed to steer his sons away from all the "God,King, and country" nonsense and so was responsible for their deaths in a battle they never needed to have joined.

  20. Warner Bros publicising the film as "inspired by real events" is true, insofar as World War 1 actually occurred. It's always a fine line, because writers are obviously free to let their imagination craft a more romanticised version of events for entertainment purposes, but the temptation is there in publicity to try and align the project with history as a way of establishing some form of credibility.

    Monash University historians in Melbourne made a short film which, through researching facts, uncovers who the real 'Water Diviner' farmer may have been, and for anyone interested in the topic, it's a worthwhile look at how much the feature film extrapolated:

  21. What does the Armenian Genocide have to do with this movie? Will it make a difference after this weekend? Did an editor actually ask her why it's included as a criticism about a movie like this?

  22. Ms. Dargis: What you do mean to communicate in using "signify" as a noun at end of 1st sentence in 2nd graf? Can't quite figure it out. Closest guess is it means that each of those three (arche)types are well written and/or played in the movie.

  23. The film was quite moving and cinematic in the grand old tradition of Hollywood. Ms. Dargis could have left her personal politics out of the film review. Oh dear Greek invaders were not presented in the most favorable light, I suppose it is only Kosher if we stick to Hollywood stereotypes about the bad guys being Native Americans, Muslims, Africans, Japanese, Germans, Chinese, and Vietnamese: ie all the people Americans, the British, and Israelis have tried to subdue. The fact that the film seems to challenge and disturb the conventional binary world view of people like Ms Dargis is reason enough to see it.

  24. My wife and I really enjoyed the movie and congratulations to Mr. Crowe for his skills and talent to be able to put such a production on a history changing event like the Gallipoli / Canakkale Campaign by being details oriented to perfectly glue various dimensions of the facts and people involved including their heavily loaded and very moving emotions. Ms. Dargis should have acted a movie critic as expected rather than a poor historian and a lousy conspiracy theorist. That is exactly what Mr. Crowe did not do in his stellar project that will find its place in the annals of WWI history.

  25. I am getting really tired of Ms. Dargis's snide and nasty word play, which has little bearing on the quality of the film being reviewed and is more to show off how "clever" she can skewer everyone whose name appears on the production credits. She reminds me of a guy, David something, who used to review movies on Channel 2 in LA when I was a kid. Mildly diluted vitriol without any scholarship in film was his stock in trade and seems to be Ms. Dargis's as well.

    Dargis's awful review of the lovely and magical "Cinderella" was clearly trumped by the opinions of millions of people worldwide, including myself, who found it to be a truly marvelous film. I think "Cinderella" is the finest film, ever.

    Perhaps Ms. Dargis and the public would be better served by a quiet retirement in which she can co write a thesaurus of insults with Don Rickles.

    Editorial board are you listening?

  26. Cinderella is the finest film, ever???

  27. I don't quite understand the cynicism of the reviewer. I enjoyed the movie especially because both sides of the bloody war were craftily weaved into a sober reality. I must agree though that the so-called love story was somewhat saccharine and far-feteched. Still, it didn't hurt the movie at all. Both actors were great to watch. Well done Russel Crowe.

  28. Wow! It wasn't really anything about the movie but the reviewers superficial review that put under a heavy skeptic impression. I loved the movie. But I indeed felt annoyed by the reviewer's overt skepticism or even cynicism. It is hard to learn something useful from the review other that Dargis's skeptic towards an eastern country.

  29. The constant interleaving of violent battle scenes with life back in Australia or later Istanbul was a little jarring, but, I agree with the other commenters that it was a good movie. Yes, it seems a bit fantastic that all these events happened to one father. Historical dramas often take real incidents and compress them onto a few characters, though. It did seemed to try to be pretty fair in giving the Australian and Turkish sides and unfair in that it didn’t include the Armenian, German or for that matter, Russian side (and gave short shrift to the British). The Allies attacked Gallipoli to open up a trade route with Russia. Turks who were siding with the Germans wanted to prevent that. Turks were understandably afraid that Armenians were pro-Russian sympathizers and greatly overreacted. It would have been very hard to credibly portray all those points of view in one film. It was a story that means a lot to Aussies and Turks even to this day. It is good to be reminded of such stories, even if they don’t personally touch you. This is no excuse for what happened to the Armenians, earlier in the war, however that is a slightly different story.