NOTED TELEPHONE-THROWER Russell Crowe tries directing with The Water Diviner, 2014's highest-grossing movie (in Australia). Joshua, the titular diviner (surprise! he's played by Crowe), is mildly psychic and mourning his three sons who went missing during the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. After a women-in-refrigerators moment, he goes looking for his children, enlisting the help of Turkish Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan); along the way, a tentative friendship develops between two men who would have been war enemies in the recent past.
Props to Crowe for considering the aftermath of Gallipoli, but I have no clue what he's trying to say about it. Is The Water Diviner a gritty war movie? An odd-couple buddy film? A train-hoppin' caper? A case of fairytale wish fulfillment? It's all of these, and thus none of them, a strange, self-contradictory patchwork. The war scenes' bloody realism is undercut by the relentless near-escapes of the movie's final act, which has a definite How Russell Got His Groove Back vibe to it. (At times, wearing a dapper wide-brimmed hat while adventuring, Crowe resembles Indiana Jones.) This is to say nothing of the movie's questionable romance, which adds little to the story, or its heavy use of slow motion over the hokey swells of David Hirschfelder's score.
The problem is that Crowe hasn't made one movie, but, like, 15. And he only has 111 minutes. So we get a mash-up bathed in magical realism-lite, where everybody is a little bit psychic, and there is much shouting into the void. It's not all bad—I would see that buddy comedy!—but it's the cinematic equivalent of switching between 40 open tabs on your computer for two hours. You might be interested, but you won't remember why.