The Ottoman Lieutenant
Starring Hera Hilmar, Michiel Huisman, Josh Hartnett, Ben Kingsley
The Forgotten (bad 2004 thriller starring Julianne Moore) director Joseph Ruben’s latest film follows the fictional, historical romance archetype genre too closely. The Ottoman Lieutenant works like a cinema launching vehicle for new stars Hera Hilmar (Anna Karenina) and Game of Thrones star Michiel Huisman. Throw in respected Oscar winner Kingsley (Gandhi) in one of his usual forgettable roles, alongside popular actor Hartnett (Pearl Harbor) and you have a re-worked Cold Mountain story. Hilmar gets the most screen time, which is a bad thing, her acting experience is questionable and her ability to deliver a scene obviously untested. The story is mostly told from her point of view, another negative for the viewer.
Lillie (Hilmar) is from an affluent Philadelphia family in 1914, who disobeys her parents’ wishes, departing for Turkey during the middle of World War I. Her naivete puts her close to danger in a strange new world, until she meets a lieutenant in the Ottoman Imperial Army, who guides her and the medical supplies she is bringing to safety. Jude (Hartnett) is one of the young doctors at a hospital that refuses to turn away any patient, regardless of what side they fight for or the color of their skin. The good doctor is drawn to Lillie, having met her once back in the states, creating a love triangle. Lillie seeks the attention of the Lieutenant Ismail (Huisman) but his Muslim religion mixed with her Christianity causes alarm and difficulty as they fall for each other.
Barely anything works well . . . very wholesome and ordinary.
Barely anything works well here as screenwriter Jeff Stockwell (The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys) leans into love triangle stereotypes, predictable tragedies and do-good-ery instead of offering us something fresh. The love story plays predominately in the foreground while the history more casually passes by in the background. Worse than her on screen performance, Hilmar’s voiceover bits occasionally halt the ill paced narrative to read lines so the audience knows what part of the war we are currently in. Ruben attempts a few near edgy moments in various places, but The Ottoman Lieutenant decides to stay very wholesome and ordinary.
Hartnett’s character simply exists to insert insufficient drama while Kingsley is given a backstory that doesn’t play into the overall theme of the film. This is Huisman’s second attempt to break into feature film leading man status, The Age of Adaline being the other. He like most of his Game of Thrones cast mates have been unable to make the transition to cinema successfully. Stockwell simply borrows ideas from Pearl Harbor, Cold Mountain and of course Titanic, creating a fictional love story set against an epic moment of time. The only result here is a waste of time.
An uninspired fictitious romance that leans on clichés instead of originality.