Friday, 26 December 2008

Australia: Movie Review

Australia: Movie Review

Rating: 6/10
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters, Bryan Brown, David Wenham
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Oh crikey.
So it's finally here - the much anticipated, ever so slightly mocked for being a gratuitous ad for Tourism, director Baz Luhrmann's Australia.
Set in 1939, at the beginning of World War 2, in the Northern Territories, English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (a very prim Nicole Kidman) inherits a cattle station. But with the rivalry over an army contract between the Carney company and any other would be stock seller, she soon realizes it's a cut throat business.
Teaming up with Hugh Jackman's Drover and Brandon Walters who plays native boy Nullah (the heart and soul of the story), they drive 2000 cattle across the countryside to Darwin.
But a bigger threat than petty cattle rivalries await them in Darwin, when the Japanese come calling after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
Where to start with critiquing Australia? Baz Luhrmann was always probably the best choice to do this film - his eye for the epic and flamboyant put him squarely in the frame for this one.
Yes, it is at times, a long tribute to the land of Australia with plenty of panoramic, sweeping sky shots over the majesty of the countryside.
But it's also never shy in pointing out the racism, inherent in the country with their treatment of Aborigine - albeit sometimes in a naïve way.
While Jackman's Drover and Kidman's Ashley are perhaps stereotypes (Jackman's the rough man of the country, who washes from a bucket when out on the range - although it does give him a slow mo moment when the water washes over his toned body; whereas Kidman's the typically uptight English lady who's horrified at how uncouth people can be in Australia), it's Walters' turn as Nullah which is perhaps the best of the film, chanelling the beauty of the native race and the belligerence and wisdom of youth.
There are humourous moments which cut through the promos for Australia itself - one such moment finds Kidman's Lady Foster marvelling at the kangaroos jumping alongside their vehicle - a moment which screams "Where the Bloody Hell are ya?" - only to have the idyllic scene shattered when one of the creatures is shot and dumped on their car.
But there are also some atrocities committed against dialogue and stereotypes a plenty which bring the story down - Jackman's character is prone to outbursts of Steve Irwinism when under pressure (Oh crikey) and David Wenham's diabolical Neil Fletcher is simply missing a handlebar moustache to twirl as he goes about his evil machinations.
Let's be clear Australia is no Gone With the Wind - it's long, and the shoe horning in of the war seems to make it a film of two distinct extremes; Luhrmann's clearly gone for a crowd pleasing film (as demonstrated in the distinctly saccharine ending of the film) and to be fair, he easily showcases the best of Australia's countryside.
But what he has failed to do is provide some stronger characters which could have pulled the film out of cliché here and there.

Make no mistake, Australia needs to be seen on the big screen; a big sprawling sweeping film - but with a bit more restraint, this film could have been the epic they wanted it to be.

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