Film Review – The Ottoman Lieutenant
The Ottoman Lieutenant
I am a sucker for period dramas and if you throw some romance in there, I am going to watch it. The Ottoman Lieutenant came onto my radar, and it became a must watch. There is not much press about this film, and never saw a trailer for it. A recognizable cast and a stunning landscape as a backdrop, it can’t be that bad, right?
The Ottoman Lieutenant centers on Lillie Rowe (Hera Hilmar, Da Vinci’s Demons), a well-off nurse in 1914 Philadelphia. Due to her brother’s death, she is spurned to make a difference in the world, hence the career. However, she is still exposed to social injustice in her hometown. Along comes Dr. Jude Gresham (Josh Hartnett) who gives a presentation on his medical mission work in a small town in the Ottoman Empire. Lillie grasps onto the Dr. Gresham’s work, and promises him her brother’s truck and medical supplies. One problem is that she cannot simply ship the goods to him, it must have a trustworthy escort. Not to be deterred, she leaves for Istanbul with the truck and goods in tow, despite the protests of her parents. Arriving in the foreign land, she encounters Ismail Veli (Michiel Huisman), a lieutenant in the army. He will become her escort to the small town of Van. Trouble happens on the way and when settled in the medical mission, love comes calling for Lillie from both the young men in her life, and a war.
The film is utterly stunning. Directed by Joseph Ruben and director of cinematography Daniel Aranyó, the shots of Istanbul and the landscape of surrounding Van are the highlight of the film. Time was obviously spent in making it as beautiful as possible, and making the viewer fall in love with the land. In turn, the plight of the people comes into the setting. They are rough, poor, and just existing on the land. It is a contrast noticed immediately, and the people placed up against the perfectly coifed Lillie only continues to make her stand out against the people she is trying to help.
While the film is beautiful, the script by Jeff Stockwell is not. It is nauseatingly bad at points and the lines are too saccharine sweet. Standout lines, almost wanting to be iconic, only received an eye roll and a snort of laughter from myself. It reads like a soap opera. While other films that involve war, death, and love work, this one fails to hit any interesting mark.
The actors are fine to watch. Hera Hilmar in her first major role is stunning to watch with her blue eyes and her flowing, wavy hair. Unfortunately, the aforementioned script doesn’t give her much to work with for her character. Huisman plays the bad boy, and the preferred love interest (of course), who fights for his people and against the observed persecution of the Armenians. Put him up against Hartnett’s Dr. Gresham, and there is no contest. Dr. Gresham is pushed aside and he does not take it well. Both actors are subjected to some awful lines.
The renowned Ben Kingsley is added into the mix as the founder of the hospital, Dr. Woodruff. He is not a well man, but still speaks the truth about the situation. He copes with his situation in life by throwing himself into his work and his ether addiction (exactly like The Cider House Rules). He speaks the truth to Lillie as she copes with her own tragedies, and he is indeed a father figure for her.
The casting and the setting are not to blame for The Ottoman Lieutenant, but the script. With a better script, this film could have been a great, but after hearing too many lines that made me cringe, the excitement of seeing this period drama quickly wore off. See it for the beautiful setting and cinematography, and maybe even the illustrious Ben Kingsley, but don’t look for much past that. The film took a period of time in a place not often seen in films and botched the final product.