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Apparently Russell Crowe has been paying attention.

Muscular, impassioned and charged with both the scope of history and intimacy of family, "The Water Diviner" is an old-fashioned movie epic — big and ripe with emotion and energy.

From its truly harrowing battle scenes to its prim romantic flirtation and on-the-road adventures, the film, directed by and starring Crowe, tells a literally wandering story that's both filled with heart and well-executed. It falls right in line with the epics Crowe has shot for Ridley Scott and Ron Howard, but it also has its own style and momentum.

Crowe plays Connor, an Australian rancher with an uncanny gift for finding things. The main things he wants to find here are the bodies of his three sons, all of whom are reported dead in the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 Turkey.

Connor arrives in Turkey to find British and Australian soldiers are combing the battlefield where thousands died, trying to identify the bodies. At first officials discourage him from joining in the effort, even though some one-time enemies, most notably a Major Hasan (Yilmaz Erdogan), are helping in the search.

Eventually an officer (Jai Courtney) lets Connor join in, and sure enough he finds two of his boys. But where's the third?

The answer to that is what drives most of the film. Connor accepts aid from a beautiful widow (Olga Kurylenko) who has a spunky son (of course she has a spunky son) and eventually enlists the help of the Major in his search, which takes him out to the war-riddled Turkish countryside.

The flashback battle scenes in "The Water Diviner" ring horribly true, and the guilt Connor feels for foolishly letting his boys go off to war as if it were an adventure has haunted parents for time immemorial. But Crowe and screenwriters Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios make sure to keep hope alive and as grim as Connor's mission is, the film feels purposeful and true. Good job, mate.

tlong@detroitnews.com

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'The Water Diviner'

GRADE: B+

Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images

Running time:

111 minutes

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