The Ottoman Lieutenant (2016)

Following a lecture by a handsome missionary doctor, a frustrated young American nurse decides to go to Turkey to deliver much needed supplies and her late brother’s truck.  As war looms and dangers abound, she is assigned an Ottoman Lieutenant to protect her on her journey to the faraway hospital.  During their journey, friendship blooms and once at the hospital, romance is in the air.

Set at wartime, during what is known now as the Armenian Genocide, the film sets a light and airy tone for more of its runtime with only some of the effects of the war shown amongst the romance and fighting between the nurse’s potential suitors.  Indeed, writer Jeff Stockwell creates a story here that is interesting on the romance side of things but does not go very deeply into the war with just some overviews and not a lot of actual facts it looks like after a bit of research.  The war and the struggles of the Armenian people are clearly not priorities here, only the romance angle and the story of the lead, Lillie.  The characters are decently developed with a touch of background for each of them and mostly development as they evolve in the same village/hospital.  Being a romance, of course the story is sweet and tries to pull at heartstrings.  While it is sweet, it is not sickeningly so.  This reviewer being mostly a fan of horror, sci-fi, and action, the tolerance level for the romantic sweetness is very low here and this film did not pass the level of acceptable sweetness, it’s pretty much just right with some drama tossed in there to complicate things and remove a touch of the sweetness.  Director Joseph Ruben takes this script and characters applying them to the screen in a way that works, looks beautiful in spots and moves at a good pace while creating an interesting ambiance.

The cast in The Ottoman Lieutenant varies between really good and just blah (as in bored or just not caring).  Josh Hartnett as the young Doctor Jude does well and shows interest in his part, giving a few scenes of passion while showing a possible love for the lead of Lillie.  Lillie’s other love interest, Ismail, the titular Lieutenant, is played by Dutch actor Michiel Huisman who does quite well with his part of a Turkish military man who is torn between his patriotism and his love for Lillie.  He shows the most talent here and gives more of himself than the others it seems.  Playing the central lady to all the action here, Lillie, is Hera Hilmar who plays sweet and demure quite well, but looks bored in some scenes where her emotional output and connection should be a lot stronger.  She’s in love with this man, she’s torn, yet she sometimes looks like she does not care at all.  This is not something that is consistent, but it is often enough to wonder if she cared about the part or was directed this to be this way.  Rounding out the main cast is Sir Ben Kingsley who is a greatly talented thespian, yet here he just looks like he does not care.  He does get a few scenes with some emotional connection, but they are few and far in-between unfortunately.

A big plus to this film is how it looks.  The film is stunning, with beautiful scenes set in a mosque, in fields, on a lake, etc.  The look of the film is due in big part to cinematography by Daniel Aranyó who frames the shots beautifully well.  The scenes in the market when Lillie originally meets Ismail are fantastic and give a great impression of the small market they are in.  The part in the aforementioned mosque is just stunning.  Then the hospital has its own look, the fields and lake look picturesque, …  He makes it all look stunning when it needs to and desolate when that is what is called for.  This shows great visual literacy and talent.

The Ottoman Lieutenant is a Turkish-American co-production with a Dutch actor as the lead Turkish character, it has some issues with the historical side of its story but the romance is not bad and not overly sweet.  It works on the surface as a romance film and looks stunning while doing so.  The cast is of variable degrees of talent here, but good for the most part with some great bit here and there.  The film is not necessarily something to see in theaters but it works for a nice night in with a loved one if one of the two is not super into romance films and wants something that will be ok for both of them.