Now you know. They do make films like this anymore. The Water Diviner is a film about an Australian farmer and water diviner (Russell Crowe) who loses three sons on Lone Pine and goes there to use his capacity to commune with the earth to recover their bodies. He does not return empty-handed, but that simple and uplifting tale has been expanded into a combination Beau Geste, The Man from Snowy River, Zorba the Greek, Kim, The Guns of Navarone, Gone with the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It is also a cry-out-loud weepy. Mr Crowe is putting down a big marker – subtlety will not be the hallmark of his film direction. Well, not a lot in his history suggests shyness.
This is all OK for those who like this kind of thing in the sequence about the lost sons, although on at least one occasion the fearful exuberance comes mortally close to a failure of taste, but by the time that the hero gets to help Ataturk to found modern Turkey with the aid of a cricket bat, some might incline to the view that we have gone over the top once too often. And there is some bleak typing, of a miserable, venal Irish Catholic priest, of insufferably snooty Pom officers, of incorrigibly democratic Australians, of lustful and polygamous Turks, and of bloodthirsty, eye-rolling Greeks. The love interest is carried by a ferociously attractive young woman; whatever other attributes she might have are lost under lines of banality that the screen-play suffers too much from. I thought that the acting honours were taken by the guy playing the Turkish officer – he looked flawless to me from start to finish.
This is all I think what used to called derring-do, but the film has a curious premise – that the hero failed in not doing enough to stop his sons setting off for the slaughterhouse in the bizarre and un-Australian name of King and Country. This whole nation is set to embark on an orgy of celebration of that very sick notion in the centenary of the disaster at a time when it is deploying war machines under the odd name of the Royal Australian Air Force to kill Arabs in a sectarian war that extends to Turkey – and, we are told, the shores of Australia. But whatever else the sons of the water diviner got killed for, I do not think that it was in order that one hundred years on, their descendants might tug their forelocks to a knight or a dame or join in hostilities on the other side of the world on the ipse dixit of the patron du jour.