Hear hear I say, to this ambitious directorial debut of Russell Crowe. He's certainly taken a big bite for a first timer director but he chews through it well and processes it brilliantly. I have not seen him at his best in a long time and in this movie he shines not just in his acting, but also in his direction. You can see straight away that he's telling 'the whole' story with great empathy about both sides of the war and the actors he's cast are just perfect.
There's the cute little boy, the beautiful woman, the grief stricken wife, the enemy that you warm to and so on. It's been a long time since I've seen my all time favourite actor Jacqueline McKenzie who plays Russell's wife Eliza that it took me a while to recognise her. It was the same for Jai Courtney (he played Bruce Willis's son in the last Die Hard movie); I had only ever seen him with a crew cut; it was a surprise to realise it was him with hair and a moustache playing Lt-Col Cyril Hughes. Dan Wyllie does 'annoying' really well and I had completely forgotten about another Aussie actor Steve Bastoni who plays Omer. This film is littered with quite a few Aussie actors. I however did warm to both Yilmaz Erdogan (Major Hasan) and especially Cem Yilmaz (Jemal) who seems to have the talent of slowly creeping into your heart to become endearing.
I know I should be talking about the movie, but not just yet. I was so enthused and enthralled by the whole film, the actors, the cinematography, the heart of it, Russell's every expression, his acting, every nuance visible on his face; "Well well Mister Crowe, you have won me over again"; I guess by now you know I thoroughly enjoyed the whole movie and give it a 7.5 out of 10. This film was inspired by a line found in a letter from Lt-Col Cyril Hughes (Jai Courtney) by Andrew Anastasios one of the two Australian writers, the other being Andrew Knight. It said "One old chap managed to get here from Australia, looking for his son's grave." It turns out that it was an unusual case and this caught Russell's interest, that it was not just about a war movie but about the humanistic side as well. He was also struck by the script that gave just as much understanding and importance to the Turkish perspective of the war.
Set four years after the battle of Gallipoli during WWI in 1919 this movie tells the tale of an Australian farmer Joshua Connor and his search for his three sons who are missing in action. He intends to fulfil his promise to his wife Eliza to find them and bring them home to Australia. The journey however is not easy as he is thwarted by military bureaucracy, yet he soldiers on. With the help of Ayshe (olga Kurylenko) at the hotel where he's staying in Istanbul and later by a Turkish Officer who has fought against his sons, Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan) with whom he travels across the war zones in search for his boys. It's on this journey that he experiences the Turkish side of the story and the fact that they too suffered great loss and devastation. This is a story of a father's determination to not give up on finding his sons and the unexpected experiences and adventure that come into his life as a result. It's about grief, loss, devastation and adventure, but at the bottom of it all, it's about love.