The Water Diviner (Blu-ray Review)

The Water Diviner (Blu-ray Review)After hearing word that his three sons have been killed in the Battle of Gallipoli, Australian farmer Joshua Connor (Russell Crowe) travels to Turkey in order to find their remains and return them home.  The uneasy aftermath of World War I and an uncooperative regime in power provide heavy conflict for Connor in his epic search.  The film premiered in Australia and Turkey on December 26th, 2014, before seeing wide release in the United States on April 24th, 2015.

The Water Diviner


After years of giving great performances, Russell Crowe (like so many of his contemporaries) has decided to jump into the director’s chair with The Water Diviner, and unlike some actors turned directors like Ben Affleck and Robert Redford, has put himself in the lead role for his first film behind the camera. The Water Diviner is an ambition picture, a period piece set in the aftermath of World War I and features multiple locations as Crowe’s Joshua Connor searches out for the remains of his three children, all reported killed in the Battle of Gallipoli as part of ANZAC (the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).

The film’s structure and story are often uneven, with a thematic that aims toward an anti-war view of a father who feels guilty for encourage his sons to enlist, but features scenes of battle heroics and subplots and characters that could have easily been left on the cutting room floor. Connor’s relationship with hotel owner Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko) is sweet, and Kurylenko is strong in the role, but seems to exist more as an exercise in examining Turkish customs than central to the plot of the film, and ends up giving the movie a rather bland sendoff in its final scene.

Impressive, though, is the film’s technical merit. The cast is very strong, even in minor roles, and is beautiful to look at, thanks in large part to the late cinematographer Andrew Lesnie (The Lord of the Rings) who marked his final film with The Water Diviner. Just about the only technical area where the film doesn’t shine is in the editing. The film could be tighter, and has a few scenes that are montages that look manipulated from scenes that were likely actual dialogue scenes at one point. Flashbacks are cut in at strange times throughout, and the film tries to both have them be accurate flashbacks but also potentially scenes in the mind of Connor, who didn’t actual witness them, as perhaps some divine recognition, an element that is never really reconciled.

One could do worse with The Water Diviner, warts and all, because despite its shortcomings too few films reach for the dramatic heaviness it attempts to conquer. Also, a note on the controversy: the film has been condemned by some for its inaccuracies, portraying the Turks in a sensitive light and ignoring atrocities such as the Armenian Genocide. This particular review is simply trying to evaluate the film as a story and technical piece of filmmaking rather than an accurate depiction of history. If these elements concern you, a suggestion would be to watch the film only as an emotional journey, and then research the history independently.

The Water Diviner


The only real qualm here is a few scenes, shot at night, depicting the Battle of Gallipoli. They take on a grainy quality (perhaps shot with a different camera than the rest of the film?), but otherwise the video transfer is excellent.

  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio:40:1
  • Clarity/Detail: Excellent, with close-ups and wider shots featuring plenty of terrific details in this encoding.
  • Depth: Depth and dimensionality is well on display
  • Black Levels: Again, these are fine in most scenes except for the Gallipoli battle scenes, where they don’t take on a full saturation.
  • Color Reproduction: Vivid warm golden hues and some great looking interior sequences.
  • Flesh Tones: The skin tones are all natural and authentic looking throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: Slight grain in the night battle scenes

The Water Diviner


Solid audio reproduction here, one of the standouts on this particular disc.

  • Audio Format(s): English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English Descriptive Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
  • Dynamics: Well balanced between clean audio and score tracks.
  • Low Frequency Extension: LFE is utilized to bring balance to the presentation.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Though there’s a great deal of dialogue in this film, the battle sequences utilize a great deal of the surround sound space in vivid detail
  • Dialogue Reproduction:  Spoken words were clear and intelligible

 The Water Diviner


Warner Brother’s Blu-ray contains a redemption code for an Ultraviolet Digital Download. The Blu-ray contains the following extras:

  • The Making of The Water Diviner (1080p, 21:48): A look at the production of the film, from the concept of where the script came from to post-production editing and scoring. This must have debuted as a television special, as it still contains gaps where the commercial breaks would have been. The featurette concludes with the film’s trailer.
  • The Battle of Gallipoli (1080p, 7:52): Contains an interview with Russell Crowe discussing the Battle of Gallipoli on its 100th anniversary, and its historical contact within his film.

The Water Diviner


Russell Crowe has decided to make his first directorial outing a highly ambitious one, and the task is to be admired, even if the final product isn’t a completely rousing success. The film is uneven in spots, but features a top notch cast, led by another excellent performance from Crowe, and great work by cinematography Andrew Lesnie in his final film. Warner Brother’s disc is lacking in extras (a commentary by Crowe on his first trip to the plate would have been nice), but those looking for a historical drama and doesn’t need it to lean to heavily on historical fact will find a decent start from director Crowe, who may have a lot more to offer with his next films.




The Water Diviner Blu-ray


Reviewer/Actor/Director/Screenwriter, former film critic for PBS' nationally televised series Just Seen It, and an MFA graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Favorite films include ROCKY, DIE HARD, GHOSTBUSTERS, THE GODFATHER, and television shows such as TWIN PEAKS, THE X-FILES, and THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

1 Response to “The Water Diviner (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Brian White

    R.I.P. Andrew Lesnie 🙁
    I was divided about seeing this one, but I think I may based on this review.
    That shot in the crystal clear blue water had to look amazing on Blu-ray
    I agree, a commentary by the first time director would have been an added bonus!
    Good review!