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Australia is an epic and romantic action adventure, set in this country on the explosive brink of World War II. In it, Lady Sarah Ashley, an English Aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) travels to the faraway continent where she has inherited a cattle ranch, owned by her late husband. When Australian cattle barons plot to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn local known as The Drover (Hugh Jackman). When tragedy strikes and Lady Sarah becomes unofficial guardian to an enchanting mixed-race Aboriginal child (Brandon Walters), this unlikely trio join forces to save the land she inherited and embark upon a transforming journey driving 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the world's most beautiful yet unforgiving terrain, only to face the bombing of the city of Darwin by the Japanese forces that attacked Pearl Harbour. With his new film, director Baz Luhrmann is painting on a vast canvas, creating a cinematic experience that brings together romance, drama, adventure and spectacle.
- Package Dimensions : 19 x 13.6 x 1.4 cm; 60 Grams
- Director : Baz Luhrmann
- Release date : 1 April 2009
- Actors : Brandon Walters, Lillian Crombie, Arthur Dignam, John Jarratt, Essie Davis
- Studio : 20th Century Fox
- ASIN : B0776K6RKD
- Best Sellers Rank: 39,657 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- 30,299 in Movies (Movies & TV)
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In the beginning the Nicole Kidman figure is a caricature of an English aristocrat, like a character from 'Those magnificent men and their flying machines.' The Hugh Jackman figure is a bar room brawler - a side of him that we don't see again in the film.
The film is very disjointed and even appears to have reached its conclusion at one point when in fact it's only half way through! The whole atmosphere and most of the characterisations change quite substantially after a desert crossing! Most notably the Nicole Kidman figure: she changes so completely as to be another person altogether.
The archetypal bad guy remains a bit of farcical figure throughout the film. The mixed-race child is as near to the star of the film as anyone gets.The senior aboriginal seems to possess other-worldly powers that bring a surreal element into the film that could be seen to be a bit too convenient! Of the other characters, the accountant is the incompetent drunk who comes good; the cattle baron, well he's just the megalomaniac cattle baron; the aboriginal friend of the Drover is the typical native friend of a main character. As for the rest . . .
This is a mish-mash of a film with little to really commend it. It's not unpleasant or unwatchable, it's just confused.
A must watch film
Part of the problem is the many caricatured and mannered performances, with Nicole Kidman overplaying the stage faux-English stuffiness as the impatient aristocrat who arrives at her husbands cattle station to find herself a widow, her murderous racist foreman (David Wenham) plotting against her to ensure Bryan Brown's cattle king retains his monopoly and her only hope to avoid ruin to assemble a ragtag band to drive her cattle to Darwin with Hugh Jackman's drover, with the sneering Wenham in hot pursuit every step of the way. While Kidman gradually improves and becomes less cartoonish as the drive goes on, some characters never really gel, most notably Jack Thompson's alcoholic accountant, who seems introduced as the film's equivalent of Peter Ustinov's dryly comical Captain in The Sundowners but never really has anything to work with. But just as problematic are the gratuitous and often clumsily executed special effects for even basic shots of characters riding in front of landscapes or camping in the outback, which integrate the elements so poorly that they manage to look far worse than any 40s back projection. They're so naggingly unconvincing that they take you out of the movie, never more so than in the big stampede sequence that should be a highlight but too often looks like they didn't have enough time to quite finish the effects. The film did run into budget and bad weather problems, it's true, but so have other films that didn't look quite so sporadically artificial. It's almost as if it's been so long since anyone made a cattle drive picture on location that the old skills have been lost and scenes that could and should have been easily shot on location have been hurriedly shot in front of studio green screens instead, giving parts of the film a horribly artificial flat TV look that belies the film's huge budget.
For a film that places so much emphasis on the importance of living a story, Luhrmann at times loses control of his sprawling material as his attention and focus seem to wander. It aims to be a sweeping old-fashioned saga but too often feels disjointed, like parts of different movies strung tenuously together and all too-often stopping just as they threaten to get interesting. The cattle drive ends abruptly, one major character's death is shown almost as an afterthought and a delirious desert crossing that David Lean would have been able to do in his sleep becomes a rather hurried and undeveloped montage that doesn't even seem to be happening to the film's main characters, who simply disappear from the scene. At times it threatens to turn into a three hour version of one of those work-in-progress presentations film companies put on for buyers and exhibitors, linking nearly-completed set pieces with trailers and promo reels to give an impression of what the finished film will be like. It even retains much of what was probably the temp track of classic Bernard Herrmann scores.
If the viewer's attention sometimes wanders as much as the directors, there's certainly ambition here, attempting to make an old-fashioned period romantic adventure for a modern age that celebrates the country without whitewashing its past, particularly the invidious attempt to `breed the black out' of a stolen generation of Aboriginal or half-caste children that drives the latter section of the film. And, though most are just throwaway roles, there's plenty of familiar faces from classic Australian movies like Gulpilil, Bill Hunter, Bruce Spence, John Jarrett and Ray Barrett along the way, though the standout performance is easily Brendan Walters as the `creamy' Kidman tries to adopt and becomes a bargaining chip in Wenham's schemes. On the plus side, the director abandons the excessive over-editing of his previous collaboration with Kidman, Moulin Rouge, for something that has a lot more room to breathe and thankfully seems to be inspired by classic movies rather than MTV. And the film finally does come together in the aftermath of the bombing of Darwin (itself surprisingly brief and showing budget limitations in cutting and pasting some stock footage from Tora! Tora! Tora! over new effects). It's a shame the rest of the film couldn't be as effective.
The extras on the DVD release are truly pitiful - two brief deleted scenes running less than three minutes combined - with the good stuff reserved for the Blu-ray release, which also includes 10 featurettes totalling 77 minutes.