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Review: The Ottoman Lieutenant

The Ottoman Lieutenant
03.10.2017
4 10

ben kingsley drama hera hilmar josh hartnett michiel huisman the ottoman lieutenant drama war romance

PLOT: An American nurse finds herself torn between the belief of others and her own heart, when she falls in love with a Turkish officer on the brink of WWI.

REVIEW: There is so much that should work in the new romantic war drama THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT. Many of the Turkish locations are marvelous. Plus there are a couple of solid performances. And finally, it tells the story of a time in history rarely explored in Hollywood. According to the press notes, the film “is the first movie to explore the eastern front of World War I.” Unfortunately, it’s also a very generic and less-than-stellar story that puts much of its focus on a dull love triangle. It may be well-intentioned and perhaps even an attempt at a thoughtful take on this, but it rarely rises above something you’d see on late night cable.

Hera Hilmer is Lillie. She is an American nurse who wants to help all in need. This is problematic considering the story takes place on the brink of World War I. When she meets an American doctor who is in charge of a medical mission within the Ottoman Empire, she goes on her noble quest. While there, she meets a lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army. Soon, she finds herself falling for the lieutenant (Michiel Huisman) while still trying to remain in good standing with the American doctor (Josh Hartnett) and a caring but tough doctor named Woodruff (Ben Kingsley). Will she ever find happiness as the world crumbles around her? Maybe you’ll care more than I did.

ben kingsley drama hera hilmar josh hartnett jeff stockwell joseph ruben michiel husiman romance the ottoman lieutenant world war I

Look, I enjoy a good period romance as much as the next movie fan. Some of my favorite films have taken place in the midst of love and war. So what went wrong here? For starters, let’s look at the leading lady. Hera Hilmer is a real beauty. However, something about her performance leaves a bit to be desired. For the entire film she gives a little narration and it is pretty lousy. Remember Blake Lively doing the same in the Oliver Stone film SAVAGES? Well this isn’t much better. In fact, the flat reading lacks any emotion or energy at all. Thankfully when she is not just reading from the script what an audience can figure out, she is mostly fine.

As for her co-stars, both Huisman and Hartnett have better luck with the lackluster script by Jeff Stockwell. Even with that, there is almost zero chemistry between the men and the girl they are so taken with. Michiel has a little more to work with, so he manages to at least offer something as the story progresses, but Harnett might as well been her brother. If you are going to have a love triangle, it would be helpful to offer at least a little tension between the three. Not once did I see Hartnett as a romantic interest. It was clear they were setting up both Hilmer and Huisman, but by the time it should have the audience swoon, it’s too late. Frankly I didn’t care too much who she ended up with.

ben kingsley drama hera hilmar jeff stockwell joseph ruben michiel huisman the ottoman lieutenant romance world war I

Director Joseph Ruben (SLEEPING WITH THE ENEMY, THE FORGOTTEN) has had a little experience with thrillers, so why is there zero tension here? Even a couple of the more violent sequences seem to meander and lacks any energy and excitement. There is beauty here, but you have to deal with a pesky and uninspired love story while watching. Even as a history lesson, this is a misstep. Considering this is the first look at the eastern front of the World War I, it would have been nice to deliver a little more of the history in an interesting way. But no, this is just a by-the-numbers story posing as an important piece of our past. There is surely a better tale to tell.

THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT isn’t necessarily terrible, but it fails to really deliver as either a war film or a romantic triangle. As far as performances go, Huisman and Hartnett do well enough, as does the always reliable Kingsley. Yet when it comes to the leading lady, the forced and boring narration going on throughout doesn’t do her any favors. Acting aside, no matter how good they are, the characters feel like cheap imitations of other romantic pairings. If you are a fan of the cast perhaps you can catch this on Netflix, but it is highly doubtful that it will keep your attention. If you are looking for a sweeping, period romance… you’d better look elsewhere.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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