“The Water Diviner” (R, 111 minutes, Warner): Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, in his directorial debut, tackles a tricky story of post-World War I reconciliation with a canvas large enough to encompass generous dollops of romanticism, adventure, melodramatic sentiment and mysticism. Working with a script by Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, Crowe returns to classic storytelling values with this sweeping-yet-intimate, serious-yet-swashbuckling epic; that he succeeds only part of the time shouldn’t detract from the worthiness of his mission. The film begins in 1915, several months after Allied forces from Australia and New Zealand invaded the Turkish peninsula known as Gallipoli; in the last throes of that notoriously vicious battle, three brothers are felled by enemy fire. The story then jumps to four years later, when the soldiers’ father, Joshua Connor – played by Crowe with sturdy, soulful understatement – is trying to rebuild his life as well as manage his wife’s lingering grief. Driven by guilt, Connor travels to Turkey to find the boys’ remains and finally carry them back home. Handsomely filmed in tones reminiscent of hand-tinted postcards, graced with stirring, carefully stage-managed images of vast Australian horizons, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque and denuded battlefields, “The Water Diviner” has clearly been made with care and a tasteful eye. Contains war violence and disturbing images.
“Survivor” (PG-13, 96 minutes, Alchemy): This taut yet hackneyed thriller about a wrongly accused fugitive with the authorities close behind borrows heavily from “North by Northwest,” “The Bourne Identity” and “The Fugitive.” Milla Jovovich plays Kate Abbott, a recent hire at the American Embassy in London in charge of security. She’s good at her job, too, which makes her unpopular with a group of killers who are plotting an attack on American soil. The crew sends a relentless assassin (Pierce Brosnan) after her. He goes by the code name Watchmaker, and when his plot to blow up Kate in a restaurant bombing goes awry, the terrorists try a different approach: Make her the prime suspect for the deadly blast. Suddenly her face is flashing across every screen in England, and she has to figure out how to evade both corrupt police officers and the icy, unyielding Watchmaker. Meanwhile, she has to solve the mystery of what these terrorists are plotting so that she can stop the attack. That’s a tall order, but any fan of the genre knows it’s doable. Contains violence and strong language.
Also: “The Forger” (art heist thriller, with John Travolta, Christopher Plummer and Tye Sheridan, Lionsgate), “Me Without You” (early Michelle Williams film), “If There Be Thorns” (based on V.C. Andrews’s best-selling “Dollanganger” series, starring Heather Graham, Lionsgate), “The Bridge” (1959, the first major antiwar film to come out of Germany after World War II, The Criterion Collection); “The Fisher King” (1991, by Terry Gilliam, starring Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams, The Criterion Collection).
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