As a first time director Russell Crowe has made a brave choice in his story backdrop. Gallipoli is an emotive subject in this part of the world, a battle forging the identity of Australia and New Zealand.
“Connor” (Crowe) is an Australian water diviner, carving his living out of the unforgiving outback, where he lives with his wife and three sons, not well off but content with his lot in life.
When the sons are called away to war, he does little to dampen their youthful ardour and esprit de corps. Only later as the news filters back home from a war fought thousands of miles away, does he truly realise the full impact upon his wife and family.
He eventually travels to Turkey in search of his sons and is met with English stiff upper lip bureaucracy in his attempts to reach the Australian military, who are assisting with cataloguing and burying the dead.
On his travels he stays at a small hotel, after being coerced by the widowers (Olga Kurylenko) young son. He then continues his quest to bring some closure, whether he sons still be alive or dead.
The brief battle scenes are well staged and the first half of the film is thoughtful, respectful and considered. The British hierarchy are portrayed stereotypically as unreasonable and uncaring. The Australians practical and willing to help once Connor cannot be deterred from his self imposed mission.
The cost human of war is amply demonstrated and Crowe takes time to show the impact on both sides of the trenches, taking care not to be jingoistic. This more balanced view proved less popular at the box office, with a $15m return on the $22m budget.
The film appears to run out of story about half way and suddenly lurches into an examination of the continuing Turkish nationalistic uprising, leading to a poor sub-plot involving the ex Turkish commander and his men.
The denouement is very unsatisfactory and unrealistic, including a tacked on love interest story which does no favours to the overall story arc. An old fashioned tale, beautifully shot but seemingly created with little regard for any target audience.
When portraying real events and honouring those affected in the closing credits, any director needs to front up with their best story, direction and acting. Despite undoubted good intentions and early promise, as a movie this may not to be the fitting tribute they deserve.
A film that arguably loses it’s way half way through the running time, which bearing in mind what came before is disappointing, despite strong acting from Crowe.