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.