Watch: Russell Crowe Looks to Make a Splash with Directorial Debut, The Water Diviner

poster, Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner, movie, trailer
I can’t seem to finish the discussions of films I have actually seen because I’m constantly being distracted by teasers of what’s yet to come. *ooo shiny!*

The latest cinematic bauble to catch my eye is the first trailer for Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner.

The actor has been hard at work on the film for more than a year, but has managed to keep it pretty well under wraps, which makes this look at the some actual footage all the more enticing and exciting.

Crowe not only directs, but stars in the film as Connor, an Australian farmer who has sent three sons off to fight in “The Great War”. The film begins in 1919, almost three years since the Battle Of Gallipoli (the mere mention of which brings to mind images of a young Mel Gibson in Peter Weir’s fantastic film. It’s probably safe to assume that Crowe learned a thing or two from Weir). All three of his sons fought there, none of them came home. So Connor makes the trek to Turkey to find his missing boys.

The trailer leads us to believe that we’ll get flashbacks that will give us insight into Connor’s past relationships with his sons and why he’s compelled to make this trip. We also get flashes of their mother, Connor’s wife, played by Jacqueline McKenzie. It appears their relationship was a bit rocky, but it also appears that she was the final impetus for Connor’s journey. Which begs the question, is she alive or dead? Because it also seems like there will be some canoodling between Connor and whomever it is that is played by Olga Kurylenko. It’s obvious she figures into his quest in some way.

But enough of me, take a look at this:

JMHO, but based on this first trailer, Crowe has shown a surer hand on the tiller than a lot of his hyphenated peers *coughRyanGoslingcoughNicolasCagecoughMadonnacoughalthoughevencallingheranactorisastretch*. If the film is half as good as this self-assured trailer would suggest, it will be a lot closer to a Dances with Wolves or Braveheart than a W.E. or Lost River.

I love that Crowe decided his first time behind the camera should be a home-grown affair. It’s an Australian story, filmed primarily in Australia with an Australian cast and crew.

The screenplay was written by Andrew Knight, known primarily for Australian tv and Andrew Anastasios, a first-time scriptwriter. The cinematography, which the trailer teases exceptionally well, particularly with the shots of the sand storms, is by Andrew Lesnie, who has worked extensively with Peter Jackson, including all six of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings films. I expect great things. The score was composed by David Hirschfelder (Australia, The Railway Man, Elizabeth). The film costars Aussies Isabel Lucas, Ryan Corr and Jai Courtney.

The Water Diviner opens in Australian and New Zealand on December 26, and the UK on 23rd January, but no US dates yet. I have no doubt one will be forthcoming.

This featurette goes further to show Crowe’s ties to the material and what it means to him, and the Australian people as a whole.

 

Watch: Angelina Jolie Enters the Oscar Race with First Trailer for Unbroken

movie, photo, Jack O'Connell, Angelina Jolie, Louis Zamperini, Unbroken

Jack O’Connell as Louis Zamperini in Unbroken

I first heard the name Louis Zamperini when he threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Red Sox-Cubs game at Fenway Park in Boston on May 22, 2011, but if you aren’t now familiar with the name of this Olympian/solider/POW/preacher/author, you soon will be.

The first full-length trailer for Angelina Jolie’s sophomore directorial effort, Unbroken, dropped on Thursday with a big splash. So big, that on this basis of this one trailer, many have already decided that the film is the first nearly certain entry in the Oscar race. (I would dispute that, if only because I think Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel had that honor.)

Unbroken is the story of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II. It’s based on a 2010 biography called “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” , (which in turn was based on Zamperini’s own autobiography, “Devil at My Heels” ) by Laura “Seabiscuit” Hillenbrand. It was a #1 New York Times bestseller, as well as being named Time Magazine’s best nonfiction book of the year.

The movie begins with Zamperini as a teenage track and field star who made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, even shaking Hitler’s hand, and then, with the outbreak of WWII, in the US military. Zamperini’s plane was shot down over the Pacific and he and the other survivors drifted for nearly 50 days before being captured by the Japanese. He spent the next two years being brutally tortured as a prisoner of war. Eventually he made it back to the US to became a born-again Christian who preached forgiveness for the rest of his life.

Universal, the studio releasing Unbroken, first purchased the rights to Zamperini’s story in 1957, planning to develop it for Tony Curtis. Some years later, Nicolas Cage expressed an interest. The project finally got the green light after Hillenbrand’s 2010 book became a best-seller.

Though he died earlier this month at 97, with the film, Zamperini’s story will continue to reach new generations. It has obviously gotten the full Hollywood hero treatment, including a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen (who rewrote a script by Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson).

Irish actor Jack O’Connell, who terrorized Michael Caine in Harry Brown and Michael Fassbender in Eden Lake, but is probably best known to anyone who saw 300: Rise of An Empire, stars as the Italian-American Zamperini. Again, if you’re not familiar with his name, you soon will be, especially once Starred Up gets a proper run this side of the Atlantic, at the end of August.

Academy Award® winner Angelina Jolie directs and produces Unbroken, an epic drama that follows the incredible life of Olympian and war hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) who, along with two other crewmen, survived in a raft for 47 days after a near-fatal plane crash in WWII—only to be caught by the Japanese Navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.

Adapted from Laura Hillenbrand’s (“Seabiscuit: An American Legend”) enormously popular book, Unbroken brings to the big screen Zamperini’s unbelievable and inspiring true story about the resilient power of the human spirit.

Unbroken also stars Domhnall Gleason, Garrett Headlund, Jai Courtney, Luke Treadaway, and Morgan Griffin as Cynthia Applewhite, to whom Louis was married from 1946 until her death in 2001. The trailer looks both slick and polished as well as gritty and realistic. The music is by Alexandre Desplat and cinematography by the great Roger Deakins. All of which would seem to add up to perfect Oscar bait. (Maybe Deakins will finally catch one.)  We’ll see when Unbroken opens in the US on Christmas Day and a day later in the UK on December 26, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it popped up out of competition at a festival like Venice or even New York. JMHO.