“Go big or go home”: A skateboarder mindset, a Sarah Palin slogan, the name of a “Parks & Recreation” episode,” and now, the guiding mantra of Russell Crowe's directorial debut, “The Water Diviner.” Via the magic of Twitter, Crowe debuted the first trailer for the war drama, a shiny blockbuster reminiscent of the high-impact Hollywood productions that shaped the actor's career. When it's not blowing up World War I battlefields, it's swelling with emotional power strings.
Written by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios (both involved with Guy Pearce's “Jack Irish” movies), “The Water Diviner” follows a father from New Zealand who flocks to Turkey to find his two sons, gone missing after the 1915 Battle of Gallipoli. Working with remaining troops (including an Australian Liuetentn played by Jai Courtney), Crowe's Connor burrows into the mystery, which appears to flash back and forth between his search and his son's time in the trenches. Olga Kurylenko costars as a woman who loves to dance and provide wisdom.
The Gallipoli conflict remains an important milestone in New Zealand and Australian history, “Anzac Day” celebrated each April to commemorate those who lost their lives fighting in the Ottoman Empire. “The Water Diviner” won't be the first time the battle appears on screen; Peter Weir had a hit with his 1981 drama “Gallipoli,” earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film. During the press rounds for “The Lovely Bones,” Peter Jackson teased the idea of helming a “Gallipoli” film in time for 100th anniversary next year. With “Hobbit” responsibilities, that plan didn't come to fruition.
The trailer hints at Crowe's competency behind the camera, one grand-looking set piece – a dust storm enveloping Connor and his two young sons – cut up and sprinkled throughout the melodrama to expand the scope. “The Water Diviner” may not be as epic as it wants to be, but the ambition's there, feeling a little more Ron Howard than Ridley Scott (as far as Crowe's past collaborators are concerned). Not a bad thing, if “The Water Diviner” rests its heavy-lifting on the actor-turned-director's shoulders.
After previewing footage at Cannes, the Weinstein Company picked up domestic rights to “The Water Diviner” with an unspecified release plan. The film will land in Australia on Boxing Day (Dec. 26, 2014).