Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand.
In northern Australia at the beginning of World War II, an English aristocrat inherits a cattle station the size of Maryland. When English cattle barons plot to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn stock-man to drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country's most unforgiving land, only to still face the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by the Japanese forces that had attacked Pearl Harbor only months earlier. Written by
Russell Crowe was attached as the lead during pre-production. He left when 20th Century Fox executives tried to stay within budget by reducing Crowe's salary. See more »
During the ball, Sarah suddenly appears in a close-up with her make-up redone. Her lipstick is the most obvious change. See more »
My grandfather, King George, he take'em me walkabout, teach me black fella way. Grandfather teach'em me most important lesson of all. Tell'em story. That day I down the billabong. King George, he teach me how to catch'em fish using magic song. See, I not black fella. I not white fella either. Them white fellas call me mixed-blood, half-caste, creamy. I belong to no one.
That day I see'em them white fellas. They were pushing them cheeky bulls across the river onto Carney land.
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It seems just about right that Baz Luhrman waited seven years after "Moulin Rouge!" to bring us "Australia". Not because it is a better movie, but because it's very different and a lot more ambitious. Of course that this has a downside, and it's fair to say it as soon as possible: "Australia" is flawed and longer than it should be, and maybe (just maybe) one day it will be viewed as the dream come true of a man very much in love with cinema, and-let's not forget-with love.
We shouldn't forget that we're talking about Baz Luhrman, we should know what to expect sometimes. Therefore, if the beginning of this film disappoints you a bit, it's completely understandable. We meet a little boy named Nullah (the very promising Brandon Walters), who talks about races and unnamed countries, about a lady everyone calls Mrs. Boss and the road that got her to Australia and more specifically to a place called Faraway Downs in the company of a man they call the Drover.
Yes, it's all quite confusing, even more when Luhrman throws in a historical context that, I suspect, he doesn't really care much about. But everything is fine because we get to meet the stars of the show. Mrs. Boss is actually called Sarah and is played by Nicole Kidman with the same air and tone of voice she's been giving us the whole decade. Her job ends up being less risky than Hugh Jackman's, who plays this Drover as a successful combination of what he's been giving us since he came into the scene: the action hero, the tough guy, the romantic and sensitive lover and the sexy man who makes women scream.
Maybe I'm not being critical enough, but there's a scene in which the Drover appears dressed up in a suit, clean-shaven I promise you that every women in the theater exhaled. Does this mean something to you? To me, it means that Luhrman's dream is a reality. Three hours of film and not getting tired one minute? Not feeling disgust when listening to cheesy phrases and watching excessively dramatic moments? "Australia" is pure melodrama, and I compliment its director for making it look that way without any shame. The keys can be seen all along the ride: the repetition of clichéd phrases, the intense close-ups, the slow-motion parts of the characters, the epic proportions of David Hirschfelder's score, the establishment of a song that accompanies the characters through their endless journey and the use of narration in places it didn't need to be; the same with some images.
However, the movie is one wonderful image after another (cinematographer Mandy Walker, from Australia-the country-; best of luck with the Oscar nomination you deserve), and it wins the audience like few movies out there these days can, providing delightful entertainment; you may discuss if it does this fairly, or if it cheats and it manipulates. You may also discuss the ambiguous ending.
One more thing. As with any dream, there's a moment in which we wake up; and that moment for Luhrman has to do with believing his picture could get to the race of Best Picture contenders, like his fantastic "Moulin Rouge!". But as I said, this movie is very different from the latter one, and Luhrman is no James Cameron That one really had it the whole way.
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