*NEW* WAR MACHINE REVIEW *NEW*

Not funny enough to be a satire and not hard hitting enough to be taken seriously.

A misfire on all fronts.

What drove Pitt to do this?

A successful, charismatic four-star general, Glenn McMahon (Brad Pitt) leaps in like a rock star to command NATO forces in Afghanistan, only to be taken down by a journalist’s no-holds-barred exposé.

My reaction while watching this drab affair.

To describe Glenn McMahon, I would have to say that “he was a throwback to another era”.

A bit like the actor that’s playing him and the film in question.

I didn’t know anything about McMahon before approaching this and after watching War Machine, I certainly don’t want to. I don’t know whether that was down to Pitt’s performance. BUT it was a joke for all the wrong reasons.

His gruff voice, the retarded face pulling and that weird run? Jogging about the place like he had the sh*ts.

I’m sure it was supposed to be comical BUT it was hard to show empathy towards a complete simpleton. Was that the punch line?

The film focuses on the 2009 Afghan withdrawal with Big Glenn (or the Glennible) tasked as the man to end the war and bring it home.

Despite the overlong running length, it was surprisingly watchable as McMahon made his assessments. Scoot McNairy’s droning commentary delivered some insightful quips BUT it went on a bit.

Free reign over his command as long as it didn’t involve bringing in more troops. Therein lies the rub.

Desperate to make some sort of impact and constantly dictated to by office bureaucrats and civilian advisors; it wasn’t long before McMahon realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew.

The tone was dreadfully mismatched. The Men Who Stare At Goats meets Jarhead vibe didn’t really work.

For all the shocking statistics and political sniping, there wasn’t really much going on.

That’s not to say that there weren’t moments to be had. I did laugh when McMahon mistook two Muslims for praying when they were actually trying to install a BluRay player.

The hypocrisy was ridiculous when Glenn demanded to know why Afghan farmers were growing opiates instead of cotton and wheat.

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at the reasoning: “US cultivation funds will not support the production of a material that can be distributed in the world market and go in direct competition with the US. So we’re growing heroin instead”.

“People will vote for whoever their local squad tells them to in fear of having their heads chopped off”.

At one point, the man was literally left twiddling his thumbs for a month while he waited for the Afghan elections to finish. The irony even more bittersweet when the US bureaucrats were dissatisfied with the outcome and fixed another to find a more suitable candidate.

A bit like now, really?

I remember Topher Grace (That ‘70s Show) being a good actor. It’s a shame he keeps getting in films that don’t let him do that. Highly unmemorable. The same could be said for the majority of the supporting cast. Such a waste.

Sir Ben Kingsley was disappointing as President Karzai. He did his best with the material BUT it wasn’t enough.

Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) stood out as the disillusioned Corporal Billy Cole. His frustration at the troop’s increasingly vague objectives was spot on.

“We got what we wanted in the first six months. There’s no street parade waiting for you with this one”.

Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) played the shady government advisor Pat McKinnon well. The true orchestrator of this messy affair.

“The longer you stay, the worse it will be for us all. Please leave now”.

You could feel for McMahon’s frustration as he genuinely believed the manure he was shovelling. Receiving no “face time” with the President other than a passing handshake during a “Meet ‘n’ Greet”.

The man leaked his own report just to get the ball rolling. And even then he was short changed reinforcements by 10,000 men!

McMahon’s estranged relationship with his wife made for uncomfortable viewing. Equating the time they spent together to less than 30 days over the last 8 years. There was zero chemistry and killed the pace like a lead balloon.

It didn’t help that McMahon came across as such a tool.

His cross-examination in Berlin by a belligerent journalist (Tilda Swinton) was like wathcing a deer in headlights.

There may have been valid points BUT it was just one big rant aimed at an emotionally detached military figure.

I’m not sure whether that feeling of detachment was supposed to be the main theme of the piece BUT it was difficult for me to connect or care about the characters involved.

The closing attack on Helmand was dull and drawn out with the end result predictable and uninteresting.

Like the protagonist, War Machine felt lost in translation. I was left questioning what the filmmakers were were trying to do.

This would have been more hard hitting 10 years ago when we had that initial influx of Gulf war movies; Jarhead, In The Valley of Elah, The Hurt Locker.

Calling Obama’s administration weak and hypocritical when the man has already left office seemed a little pointless.

Watchable BUT I can’t say riveting or enlightening.

Despite some eye-opening encounters, this was still a disappointing misfire that failed to deliver enough hard-hitting drama or entertaining humour.

2.5/5

*NEW* HACKSAW RIDGE REVIEW *NEW*

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Brutal, gripping, hard hitting. Not the greatest war film of all time BUT a bloody good watch all the same.

The true story of WWII American Army Medic Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who served during the Battle of Okinawa, refused to kill people, and became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

I was a little worried at first that Garfield was going to come off as a bumbling Forrest Gump with his bashful demeanour and Southern accent BUT he delivered enough charm and charisma to win me over. A strong performance.

The first 40-odd minutes was corny but easy going enough as we followed Desmond through his childhood years right up to his enrollment. A good portion of that time was spent on wooing the local nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer – Lights Out). It may have been a little schmaltzy BUT the pair had good chemistry and I was happy to watch.

The flashbacks flicking back and forth into Desmond’s past broke up the cheesy romance as we discovered the reasons behind his refusal to carry a firearm.

It was great to see Hugo Weaving as Doss’ embittered drunken vet father. He played it with aplomb. A tormented man who felt he had already died with his men in the Great War. Seeing his survival as nothing more than a curse.

Punishing himself and his family. His reaction when he discovered that his two sons had enlisted was surprising.

The boot camp training montage was a little predictable. Especially when Doss had to compete with the macho hot head Smitty Ryker (Luke Bracey – Point Break). BUT it still hit home as Desmond fought against the military hierarchy. Reserving his right to serve as a medic:

“No less danger, just . . . while everybody else is taking life, I’m going to be saving it. With the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to wanna put a little bit of it back together”.

I wasn’t sure whether Vince Vaughn would cut it as Sergeant Howell. I was hoping this role would be a change from his usual spiel. BUT his Wedding Crashers style drill call and endless shouting was a little hit and miss. It was a little too OTT for my liking as he gave the privates nicknames. However, there was a couple of clever one liners.

BUT as Doss’ struggle worsened, Howell soon won me over as he realised the stubborn Virginian wasn’t going to back down. Fighting for his beliefs.

Sam Worthington (Avatar) was brilliant as the callous Captain Glover. Embarrassed to have a “conscientious objector” in his ranks. Ordering Howell to force the boy’s resignation.

Doss’ treatment was shocking. Beaten until he was black and blue by members of his own infantry. Pushed to the very edge. He was even denied a day pass to attend his own wedding. Unbelievable.

It went right up to a military tribunal and even during the first attack on Hacksaw, troops were still weary of the medic. The second half of the film was something to behold. A true act of honour and dedication.

I had no doubt on ol’ Blue Eyes taking the helm. We had already seen a return to form in his stellar turn in Blood Father BUT this latest entry from the Braveheart and We Were Soldiers director was a step in the right direction.

The violence was ridiculous. Gibson definitely didn’t hold back the punches. It was visceral, gory and bloody as hell. He really showed the true extent of what war can do to a soldier.

The only problem with all the CGI (especially with the flamethrower attacks) was that it came off like something out of Starship Troopers! And when Doss kicked that grenade like a football, I couldn’t help but tut. Hollywood had to put their stamp on it somewhere.

“Just give me one more”

I was on tenterhooks right up to the emotional and fitting tribute. As every one else had climbed back down off the ridge, Doss stayed to tend to the wounded.

Covering up the injured from the lurking Japanese. Evading capture and sniper fire. Discovering their hidden trenches. Tense, gripping. I was completely transfixed as this young man, with no firearm, saved 70 soldiers who were already deemed lost by their superior officers.

He even tried to save several Japanese officers who didn’t quite make the journey back to the medical tent.

Despite a 139 minute running time, the pace didn’t test. Garfield impressed yet again, giving one of his best performances to date. It was nail biting and enthralling. That final act when Glover apologizes to the crazy Virginian was heartbreaking.

The real life interviews and footage in the closing credits really brought it home.

A compelling drama as one man defied the odds and fought for what was right. Worth a watch.

3.5/5

*NEW* THE SIEGE OF JADOTVILLE REVIEW *NEW*

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Gripping, shocking and a bloody good watch!

Irish Commandant Pat Quinlan (Jamie Dornan – Fifty Shades of Grey) leads a stand off with troops against French and Belgian Mercenaries in the Congo during the early 1960s.

How did this not get a better release? Well, at least this movie established one thing. Netflix are funding the right scripts.

Any one can film a true life event BUT that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be any good. Come on, we have the True Movies channel that says otherwise. There’s some real gems on there.

I was recommended this little war flick after my family were bored one evening and “borrowed” my Amazon Fire Stick. I’m glad they brought it to my attention.

It got straight to business throwing us right into the befuddling chaos with the Congo in dispute and heavy pressure from the USSR and USA forcing the UN to intervene.

UN ‘peacekeepers’ choosing Ireland as a neutral force to provide security to a dilapidated compound. Open for attack with only two exit points.

The first 30 minutes was slow burning BUT intriguing. We followed the backhanded deals between the UN Secretary General (Mikael Persbrandt) and Conor Cruise O’Brien (Mark Strong fetching a very bad wig).

The hypocrisy as the officials passed the buck. Ordering the clueless troops to protect important vantage points in a feeble bid to stop the ruthless and calculated Moise Tshombe (Danny Sapani).

It was good to see Sapani (Penny Dreadful) get a meatier role as the slimy general playing the officials off against each other.

Jamie Dornan was superb. At first, I wasn’t sure that his performance would be strong enough for the character BUT it worked.

A clever academic that can quote Rommel and Caesar with the drop of a hat BUT has never fought in a battle before. The troops just as unconvinced with their commandant as the audience.

I loved how SoJ didn’t mess about with the cliched build up that has tragically become the norm in war films of late.

We didn’t need a back story for every character. We cared for them and the situation that they had unwittingly stumbled upon. Soldiers merely following orders.

Outmanned, outgunned and out of time. I still couldn’t believe that this was a true story as the troops discovered their limited supplies, shoddy equipment and lack of coverage.

The tension as Quinlan encountered the French legionnaires in a rundown bar. Nail biting. Guillame Canet (Tell No One) was very good as the shady Rene Falques. A mercenary respectfully warning the Irishmen to stand down.

The verbal sparring as the pair shared a glass of Cognac was brilliant. Kevin Brodbin’s dialogue was fantastic; “Not many Frenchmen like German tacticians. It only took them two weeks to take over your entire country”.

150 vs. 15,000. It was a 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi set up without the agonizing pace. The odds growing against them as they endured wave after devastating wave.

Emmanuelle Seigner (The Diving Bell and The Butterfly) was wasted in her role as Madame LaFontagne. Her character nothing more than a plot device. Confirming Quinlan’s suspicions that Jadotville was a vital mining area for minerals and uranium.

The action was frantic, fast paced and enthralling. I was hooked. The CGI and effects were pretty impressive for a limited budget.

“What’s it like getting shot? I wouldn’t recommend it”. I didn’t expect the humour as the lads tried to make sense of it all. Fantastic.

The only thing I could mark the film down for was that there were only several faces other than Dornan and the equally brilliant Jason O’Mara (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) that we actually stuck with. The rest were lost in the chaos.

BUT I was completely caught up in this. I wasn’t fidgeting or messing about on my phone. I was rooting for them from the get go.

I was even yelling at the legionnaires as they cheated at every obstacle. Faking a ceasefire to pick up the wounded and launch mortar attacks!

Mark Strong was excellent as O’Brien. Sitting on the sidelines and churning out all sorts of rubbish to Quinlan in desperation as the plan failed. Telling him to hold his ground. Despicable.

The finale was unbelievable and emotional as our heroes returned to an empty airfield. No one to welcome them home. Branded cowards in a battle they should never have had to fight.

It took 40 years for the ‘A’ Company to receive their medals of honour. Shocking. The credits and figures really hit home.

I cannot praise this film enough. Worthy of your time. This might even creep into my top war films list.

If you haven’t got Netflix, get it, steal it and watch this. If you have, why aren’t you watching it?

4/5

*NEW* ALLIED REVIEW *NEW*

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I surrender.

Good chemistry does just enough to make this typical Hollywood war romance watchable.

In 1942, a Canadian intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter (Marion Cotillard) on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.

Was this really penned by the man who gave us Peaky Blinders?

BUT at that same stroke, he gave us Locke and Mockingbird . . . So . . . yeah.

The opening act was slow burning BUT engaging as Pitt’s (incredibly bad CGI’d) Vatan descended onto the French Moroccan desert.

The tension slowly bubbling as the officer set out on his mission. The secret rendezvous. The cloak and dagger meetings. The questions piling up.

Cotillard stole the show from the get go. I expected nothing less as she did her best to hide Pitt’s school boy French. BUT it allowed for a nice icebreaker between the pair as they gathered Intel and rehearsed each other’s cover stories.

The detail was ridiculous from Vatan’s threads to perfecting his “Parisian” twang. He even had to sleep on the roof to establish the couple’s “reunion” as the neighbours watched from the windows.

The pace dragged BUT the pair’s blossoming partnership and chemistry made up for it as we played the waiting game. Cotillard’s Marianne proving she is more than just a piece of arm candy and up for the task in hand to the stern and dreadfully serious Vatan.

Don Burgess’ cinematography certainly left little on the eye. Casablanca didn’t look quite as romantic as the 1940s classic, that’s for sure. BUT that didn’t stop director Robert Zemeckis and co. piling on the cheese.

A little too Hollywood for my liking. No, really. I had to laugh at their whirlwind romance. Captured perfectly in a hilarious sandstorm bonk. Peer-leasseee.

Zemeckis’ track record has been hit and miss for the last 15 years BUT he knew how to deliver the suspense as the pair took on their risky mission. It was edgy, brutal and surprisingly violent.

BUT when the pair went back to London, the pace was tragically put on the back burner as they got hitched and had a child.

I had to cringe at Cotillard giving birth in the middle of an air raid. I’m sure it was meant to be a sweeping statement that war stops for no one BUT it was far too hammy.

Luckily it wasn’t long before the game was afoot again with a suspect Nazi agent in the ranks. The only problem was that the agent in question was Marianne.

Simon McBurney (The Conjuring 2) was quite creepy as the appropriately titled ‘Ratcatcher’. I wish he was in this more. Jared Harris’ (Mad Men) Frank Helsop, on the other hand, was a little tally ho and what for not. Shame.

The two men assigned to putting Vatan’s life in misery. My interest was finally peaked as Vatan sought to prove Marianne’s innocence; with failure to do so resulting in their execution. Grim stuff.

The final act delivered more of what I had expected from the get go. It was tense and, despite my grumbling, I was still guessing right up to the very end as Vatan had to re-evaluate the very woman he fell in love with.

I just wish Zemeckis had given us more suspense. I hadn’t been so anxious waiting for a phone to ring (Those who have seen it, will know what I’m talking about).

The lines weren’t quite as crisp or as memorable as I’d hoped and made some of the more dramatic scenes a little clunky. Oh . . . and Brad Pitt’s angry chair kick had me in stitches.

The supporting cast left little to be desired. Anyone could have played Lizzy Caplan’s (Now You See Me 2) part as Vatan’s sister. If at all. She was completely unnecessary and her silly romance with Charlotte Hope (Game of Thrones) felt tacked on and in the wrong film altogether.

I was more interested in Matthew Goode’s (The Imitation Game) disfigured war vet. He made more of an impression in five minutes than all of Caplan’s encounters combined.

I actually wanted to know more about his past with Vatan and the reasons behind his neglected hospital imprisonment. BUT alas, it was not to be.

Allied wasn’t as bad as I had originally anticipated. The two leads’ chemistry kept things watchable. It just felt like we had seen it all before and done much better.

Moments of quick violence and gore with patchy suspense sequences just didn’t quite cut it.

A watchable, if dreadfully muddled, affair.

So-so, all sport.

2.5/5

*NEW* 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI REVIEW *NEW*

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Everything you could expect from a Bay flick and (surprisingly) more.

As an American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

At first; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to tolerate the relentless and OTT ‘Murica speeches, the nauseating clichéd family conversations and ridiculous banter from the incredibly macho team BUT once the siege took effect, I was hooked.

All that mind numbing rubbish thrown out of the window for a tense, riveting and nail biting thriller. A perfect platform for some very underrated supporting actors to steal the spotlight.

The first 40 minutes really was everything I expected from the Transformers director. It was big, bold with regular Bay stalwart Dion Beebe’s glossy cinematography making even the most grittiest Libyan slum look picturesque.

An incredibly unnecessary and testosterone fuelled stand off with James Badge Dale’s (Flight) cocky Tyrone and a group of Libyan rebels didn’t really give me high hopes. His macho demeanour and cock sure attitude just grated against me BUT once all the machismo and camaraderie between the group had subsided, he was actually quite good.

John Krasinki delivered a solid performance as newbie Jack. A perfect transition from the comedy circuit (The Office USA) to some serious acting. The last thing I watched this guy in was Lip Sync Battle against Anna Kendrick.

David Costabile (Breaking Bad) played the stuffy chief head caught up with the bureaucracy well. Not enough of him in my opinion. A lot more could have been made with his character. BUT it’s a difficult task when you’re trying to stay true to real life events. Something I was surprised to see Bay actually do. The only exaggeration here was, of course, the explosions and carnage.

Once the team of misfits were assigned to the Ambassador’s (Matt Letscher – The Flash) security detail, my interest was peaked. A slow burning thriller was set. The paranoia and tension bubbling away. I was completely caught up in it. Wondering if the casual passer by or cabbie was a possible enemy. Taking a picture of the compound to send to a militant? Or just sending a text? A distressed civilian trying to warn the guys? Or merely a distraction?

As night descended and the inevitable siege took place, a Black Hawk Down style scenario developed. Out manned, outgunned and no reinforcements on the way, 13 men had one hell of a task ahead of them.

You could bank on Bay to deliver an exhilarating and fast paced shoot em up. BUT despite a redemptive and thrilling second half, he still suffered from the same old flaws. The pace was far too long. This could have been cut by a good 30 to 45 minutes and been much better for it. It really did test by the closing minutes.

For all the intense and explosive action (Bay’s specialty), it was tough in parts to catch who was doing what. It was too dark. It helped add to the claustrophobia BUT you soon couldn’t see a damn thing. And then there was too much going on. Random blurs and endless numbers of faceless foes being shot left, right and centre didn’t help.

Toby Stephens (Black Sails) was wasted in his minute role. Anyone could have played the part. His character nothing more than a foot note to highlight the inefficiency and hypocrisy of ‘cutting through the red tape’ just to send support.

I was surprised at the dark humour and satire that popped up in this. Kids running around playing football while growing insurgents were creeping closer and closer. I couldn’t believe it. There was a moment where during the first wave of attack, the gang look over the compound wall to catch a neighbour sitting in his back garden watching the telly. What?!

The closing minutes may have tested as the explosions kept coming BUT it still left a little lump in the throat with a fitting tribute to the lives lost. Accompanied by real news footage of the Libyan civilians that mourned that fateful night.

A little long at the tooth BUT once it going, it was hard hitting and nail biting. A return to form of sorts for the Bay-ster. Good to see him do something other than Transformers.

3/5

CHILD 44 REVIEW

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Tipped to be the biggest flop of 2015. An unjustified tag line may be undeserved but this clunky affair still leaves a lot to be desired.

A disgraced member of the military police (Hardy) investigates a series of nasty child murders during the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

Tom Hardy was superb. A powerhouse performance. He carried the film and was the only actor to deliver a convincing accent and keep in character.

The opening 30 minutes zipped along. If anything a little too quickly. We watch Hardy’s Leo Demidov climbing through the ranks from an orphan on the run to a decorated war veteran.

I expected more of a relationship between Hardy and Mark Lewis Jones’ Tortoise (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World) but it didn’t really surmount to anything. He takes Leo in as a surrogate son but as soon as we are caught up to date, his character is pushed into the background. A shame.

Joel Kinnaman was actually quite impressive. He played the green eyed Vasili very well. A coward forever lurking in Leo’s shadow. A nutter hell bent on taking his anger on those beneath him.

His punishment on a family of farmers for hiding a suspected fugitive was relentless. However, there was a highly comical and OTT cornfield punch up between Hardy and Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of The Apes) that killed the tension and suspense.

BUT an interesting development soon put things on the right track as Leo’s wife (Noomi Rapace) is accused of giving secrets to the British embassy.

For the first hour, I kept thinking to myself; “Where does the child killer story come into this?” It felt like a different film. Two story lines meshed into one and neither really came off.

I was more interested in Leo’s exile after refusing to give up his wife. Noomi Rapace and Hardy reunite yet again after their pairing in The Drop. They had good chemistry and certainly kept things watchable.

The exile sequence was compelling. I was happy to see more of that factory town situation. Leo reduced to the equivalent of a PCSO. While Rapace’s Raisa, a fully qualified teacher, is purposely made a cleaner at the school.

I was intrigued with the Stalin ideology that was enforced in the 50s. “There is no murder in paradise”. The deluded belief that no one kills in Soviet Russia was baffling. Those who opposed any ideals were removed either temporarily to these slum towns or permanently.

The child killer subplot finally arrives and it was interesting (To begin with). The killer sneaking around the tracks like Jack the Ripper. A cloak and cane being the only things we see as each child is picked off one by one. BUT it soon became a mindless walk through with terrible red herrings. It was sloppily put together and didn’t fit in.

The spluttering pace did test me. At a whopping 137 minutes, the film dragged. It seemed to be a case of all or nothing. In one scene we have an exhilarating escape attempt on a train as the couple evade capture. The next; mindless exposition. Boring forensic information delivered with no conviction or interest.

The killer is revealed to the audience too early on which kills any tension. And when we finally get the answers, I was left wanting. The film suggested that there was a bigger conspiracy at play with Leo being stopped at every possible opportunity. Was the killer within their own ranks? Oh no.

The conspiracy was that Vasili wanted Leo’s position and was jealous that his wife was not with him instead. That’s it. Leo had so many opportunities to dispose of Vasili and he refused. By the end, you were yelling, “Get rid!”. Foolish.

Gary Oldman didn’t make much of an impression at all. A talented actor reduced to an unmemorable role. He also seemed to forget he was Russian. His accent dipping in and out. It didn’t help that his character was built up to be a crucial figure in the case. But he was non-existent. Merely threatening Leo to stay out of his way and then allowing to do as he pleased.

While Leo was pursuing the killer, Oldman’s General Nesterov was just consoling the grieving families. And then he disappeared. Only popping back up in the closing credits to explain what he did after this daunting case. Not a lot afterwards, either. A waste of an actor.

I had to agree with someone that said the cast were doing their best Borat impressions. It was incredibly off-putting. But that’s Hollywood for you. Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty) was the biggest culprit. Terrible. Paddy Considine did as well as he could with the role but he didn’t really get to shine until the closing act.

After a lumbering middle act, the last 20 minutes was suspenseful, intense and ridiculously violent. Hardy goes through more soldiers than Rambo. His mud wrestling battle with a foe was unbelievably hilarious.

And as the film came to its abrupt close, there were plot points that just left me scratching my head. People being bumped off left, right and centre and without any real explanation or reason.

A wasted opportunity. When I last checked the box office records, Child 44 had taken $600,000 a $35 million budget.

A little harsh. It wasn’t all bad. But they took a gamble with a huge ensemble that didn’t deliver with a premise that was half baked. And penciling it in during the Avengers release was a big mistake.

Clunky, overlong, hammy. This may have been adapted from a best selling novel but I’m not certainly venturing out to my local book shop to purchase a copy.

The cons outweighed the suspenseful action sequences and charisma of the talented Mr Hardy.

2.5/5

THE WATER DIVINER REVIEW

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A simply divine debut from Russell Crowe.

Engaging, heartfelt and definitely one of the better films I’ve seen.

So what’s it about, mate? An Australian man (Russell Crowe) travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons.

Not the best title for a movie. And I could hear a few people asking, “Why is it called that?”

Russell Crowe plays Connor, a farmer who has a gift for finding water.

Through a series of flashbacks, we delve into his background as he fights the bureaucracy and red tape to find his three missing sons who never returned from the horrors of Gallipoli.

An impressive debut from a talented actor. I had high hopes and the film certainly delivered the majority of them.

The cinematography was fantastic. Not bad for a directing debut if you can get Andrew (Lord of The Rings) Lesnie on board.

The beaches of Gallipoli and the Turkish mosques were captured beautifully.

The pace was perfect. I was engrossed and switched on for the 112 minute length. All helped by a great cast, great acting and a good story.

Jai Courtney added a sincerity to the role of Lt Colonel Cyril Hughes. It made for a refreshing change from the endless hard man roles he seems to do these days. It was good to see him actually act. Even with a bad moustache.

Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace/Oblivion) was very good. I may have a little screen crush on her but she played the vulnerable widow well.

There was good chemistry between her and Crowe which made their inevitable pairing a little more endearing and watchable.

Dan Wyllie was very good as the snobby bureaucrat that was Captain Charles Brindley. Forever a thorn in Connor’s side.

An all too familiar and painfully accurate representation of the British influence on the Ottoman Empire.

His rant about the significance of a soldier’s death really hit home.

Yilmaz Erdogan was superb as Major Hassan. I don’t know how much of the film was dramatized BUT I couldn’t believe how this man still wanted to help Connor after his treatment by the ANZAC soldiers.

His answer; “He was the only father who came looking”. Remarkable.

I could feel my loyalties divided as we watch Hassan see his country being torn apart. The figures about the loss of life on both sides were shocking.

Cem Yilmaz and Erdogan also made a memorable pairing as the Turkish captives. It was great to see them as fully rounded characters and not just as one dimensional representations of “The Enemy”.

Dylan Georgiades managed to do something that not a lot of child actors do and that is to not annoy the hell out of me. A charming performance.

In between Crowe’s challenging ordeal to honour a promise, we follow Kurylenko as she must fight against the binds of reputation and family. Defiant to accept her husband’s death by the community and ignoring the advances of her polygamous brother-in-law to re-marry.

To be honest, I would have been happy to see Kurylenko’s subplot fleshed out a little more but it certainly got the point across.

The battle sequences were hardly groundbreaking but they still captured the brutality of it all and made for some heartbreaking viewing.

Russell Crowe was (to be expected) fantastic. A charismatic lead that delivers yet again.

However, it’s not all perfect.

Isabel Lucas’ (Transformers) character was a little unnecessary. Apart from being the local prostitute staying in the hotel, she didn’t do much else or contribute anything to the story. A wasted character if I’m honest.

The flashbacks were key and added to the story. However, I found the heavy use of CGI spoiled a riveting sequence in which Connor saves his boys from a sandstorm.

Luckily, the endearing relationship between Crowe and the boys managed to reprieve the terrible special effects.

There was also a scene in which a secret rendezvous at a Turkish bath with Connor, Cemal and Major Hassan came off unintentionally comical. The celebratory song and dance number was a little too cheesy for my liking.

Some may also argue that Connor’s sixth sense is a little hammy and farfetched. There isn’t any explanation into how Connor can find water or why he has the recurring dream sequences in which he can see his son alive.

It’s not that sort of film and sometimes you just have to believe and hope. A parental instinct is a bond in itself that goes beyond explanation. I didn’t let that spoil the film for me. If anything, it added an extra depth.

As the film came to a close, there were some revelations along the way. However, I don’t want to tell you too much about the story. Some moments were predictable but they still hit home and made for a teary eyed finale.

It’s not without its imperfections BUT it surprised me that considering this film was a commemoration of a battle 100 years ago, relationships between Greece and Turkey are still rocky as hell.

I would certainly recommend you take the time to invest in this story of one man’s promise to bring his boys home.

A riveting, heart-breaking and promising debut.

Bravo, Mr. Crowe.

3.5/5