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82 out of 95 people found the following review useful:

An experience that assumes a dreamlike and spiritual aura

Author: Howard Schumann from Vancouver, B.C.
4 November 2013

Poet and naturalist Diane Ackerman said, "The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one's curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun struck hills every day." One such high-spirited thoroughbred is Australian naturalist Robyn Davidson who, at the age of 27, crossed the Australian outback in 1977 from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with only four camels and her dog as companions. Nominated for Best Film at the Venice Film Festival, Director John Curran's Tracks documented Davidson's nine-month journey of 1677 miles without adding layers of melodrama to distract us from her true spirit of adventure and love of nature.

Based on Robyn Davidson's classic travel book of the same name and supported by the extraordinary cinematography of Mandy Walker and the lovely score by Garth Stevenson, the film follows Robyn as she travels solo across the unfathomable desert. Sponsored by National Geographic magazine, photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) was chosen by the magazine to photograph her journey for the magazine, but only meets up with her at scattered points during her trip. Davidson at first finds Rick annoyingly over-talkative, but slowly warms to his support and caring and they become friends, while still keeping their distance.

Not much information is given as to Robyn's motivations in undertaking this adventure, but the film does provide flashbacks over the course of the film informing us about events in the naturalist's past involving loss and disappointment. In some ways, comparable to Chris McCandless' odyssey as documented in Sean Penn's 2007 film Into the Wild, Robyn's goal is to convince herself that she is up to the task of following her own path without having to conform to society's expectations. In spite of her need for solitude, however, she learns to compromise with friends and reach an understanding with visiting journalists looking for a story, even though at one point she says to a resident of the desert, "It's hard to explain that I just want perfectly nice people to shut up and die." Though Robyn does her best to avoid the unwanted company, she eventually recognizes her need for support from others, not only from Rick, but also from an Aboriginal elder named Eddy (Roly Mintuma), who accompanies her to make sure that she avoids the Aboriginal's sacred land. Mia Wasikowska as Davidson perfectly captures the sharp edges of her enigmatic personality while still retaining her adamant refusal to be the effect of her social limitations. It is a strong performance that may earn her consideration for a Best Actress award at the 2014 Oscars.

Though some viewers may become restless with the unchanging landscape and the lack of overt drama, obstacles do appear in the form of wild bull camels charging towards her and the need for her to take a 160 mile detour to avoid Aboriginal lands. While Tracks has a surprising amount of clutter for an adventure into the wild, as Davidson comes closer to her goal, the growing quiet and emptiness of the vast outback turns her journey into an experience that assumes a dreamlike and spiritual aura.

Through it all, her fierce determination to accomplish her goal while still retaining her sense of self grows stronger. Davidson in a recent interview said that "At the time, all young people pretty much wanted to do extraordinary things and extend the limits of what had been given to them as their roles." Poet e e cummings agrees, saying, "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battles which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting." That is the legacy of Robyn Davidson.

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52 out of 63 people found the following review useful:

"Tracks" - an authentic, beautiful film

Author: LifeVsArt from United States
29 April 2014

After reading the book "Tracks", I found it difficult to imagine anyone being able to transfer it properly to cinema. Well, it took them years to do it, but thankfully they've achieved what seemed almost impossible. I saw "Tracks" yesterday and I found it truly moving. It's a beautiful film - not just in its transporting cinematography and landscapes, but beautiful for its truthfulness, its honesty. "Tracks" is both sublimely poetic and ruggedly authentic - it's emotionally raw. I didn't find one false note in the movie - no melodrama or stereotype characters that you see in most Hollywood films. Mia Wasikowska's performance demonstrates that old line from Keats, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" - it's a great performance - the epitome of soulful. The journey is as much her character's internal coming to terms with herself and the world, as it is the external journey, but nothing is spoon-fed to the audience. The film is psychological and spiritual and the landscapes and the actions reflect the central character's shedding of burdens and confronting herself in a naked environment - it's universal, but profoundly personal. One reviewer described it as "achingly beautiful", having now seen "Tracks", I feel that's an apt description. I think director John Curran and everyone involved in making the film has pulled off an extremely challenging project and have created something of lasting value. Congratulations.

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35 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

Quiet but profound

Author: Neil Welch from United Kingdom
23 May 2014

Robyn (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in Alice Springs, determined to make the 1,700 mile journey to Australia's west coast on foot across the desert, accompanied by camels and her dog. This film tells of her preparation and the outcome of her journey.

Despite the fact that it is often leisurely in the telling of Robyn's true story and that Robyn is, for much of the running time, the only person on screen, it is never less than engaging. We get some idea of what drove Robyn to undertake this project (although there is no glib, clear explanation of her motivations), and we meet some of the people she encountered (and one of the enjoyable elements in this film is the development of National Geographical photographer Rick (Adam Driver) - truly annoying when we first meet him, by the end he is much more in tune with what Robyn's objectives have been).

Mia Wasikowska is very good in this gently moving film, but the real stars of this beautifully photographed story are the Australian desert and the camels.

There is a small amount of dramatically justifiable bad language and some animal upset involved.

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29 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

A Visually Stunning, Superbly Acted Film

Author: freemantle_uk from United Kingdom
31 May 2014

Tracks is a film that was over 30 years in the making with actresses like Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts being attached to the project. Lead by Mia Wasikowska, Tracks is an interesting, thematic character study.

In the mid-seventies, Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska) is a determined young woman who leaves the big city behind for Alice Springs in the middle of Australia. She plans to raise money and gain skills before attempting to cross the Australian deserts to the Indian Ocean: a journey of 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometres). With sponsorship from National Geographic, she sets off with her dog and four camels and meets American photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) at various points on her journey.

Wasikowska gives a fantastic, compelling performance as a young determined woman who puts herself through a massive physical and mental toll. She is a character who is uncomfortable with modern society, and everyone she meets, from her friends to hardened outback men, think she is mad for wanting to take such a dangerous journey.

Robyn is a character who has to negotiate for everything she wants to complete her journey and she is determined to do it her own way. She is in the shadow of her father who was himself an explorer and disappeared in Australian wilderness. Robyn is haunted by her past as she has flashbacks during her journey about the various tragedies of her life.

Some of the best moments in Tracks are when Robyn is all alone in the wild, giving Wasikowska a fantastic opportunity to show off her a talents, as she goes through the emotional stresses she endures. She is believable as she treks through the hostile environment, battling for survival and doing for her the unimaginable, including shooting wildlife and having to discipline her camels.

As she progresses on her journey her sense of reality is questioned, affected by both her isolation and the hot, physical environment. This is amplified by the direction of John Curran, who adds to the surreal nature of these sequences and the fantastic cinematography by Mandy Walker, who truly highlights the beautiful landscape while still showing it as hot, dry and harsh.

The main focus of Tracks is Robyn's personal journey yet it still looks at some wider issues particularly the treatment of Aboriginal people. This theme is prevalent throughout the film, starting early as one Aboriginal person suffers racial abuse, and keeps going as Aboriginal people are seen living in poverty or gawked at by tourists. Even people who have good intentions are disrespectful of their traditions. Robyn ends up being a character who has more affinity with the Aboriginal people and fellow loners and outsiders than with mainstream society.

Tracks is in keeping with films about outsiders looking for a purpose in their lives, like Into the Wild. It is a brilliantly acted film blessed with excellent visuals and themes to easily sink your teeth into.

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30 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

There is more to the desert than meets the eye.

Author: bigmystery23 from United States
27 April 2014

I had been very excited about this movie after seeing the trailer. The story is exhilarating and after watching movies like "Into the Wild" and "127 Hours," I was waiting to see what was in store. As I sat down in my seat to see this at the San Francisco Film Festival I decided to erase all anticipation of the movie and just sit. The lights dimmed down, the audience shuffled into comfortable positions, and then began the movie. Almost two hours passed, and the film's credits began. The audience sat in their seats, myself included. We were mesmerized by John Curran's adaptation, Mia Wasikowska's tremendous performance, and Mandy Walker's impeccably/beautifully captured imagery. What stood out to me the most, though, was the perspectives of isolation and companionship. Marion Nelson did a fantastic job at taking the elements of the autobiography that gave us those perspectives, and as we watched Mia struggle through the desert with her four camels, dog, and occasionally the photographer (played by a genuine Adam Driver), we all began to understand her points of views in life as well as ourselves. So much motif was done with the desert, which I have to applaud John Curran for doing. I will be seeing this film again when it is released, and I hope you will too!

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21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

Very good Australian adventure-drama

Author: Red-Barracuda from Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
29 April 2014

Tracks is the true story of Robyn Davidson, a 27 year old woman from Brisbane who in 1977 decided to embark on a 1,677 mile trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, crossing the Australian outback. She did it mainly alone, aside from four camels and a faithful dog. She was helped a little by a photographer who organised financial backing for her trip from National Geographic magazine and with whom she had brief romantic involvement on her trip, while she was also assisted on the way by some Aboriginals who guided her though sacred lands of theirs. The trip in total took nine months.

This is one of those movies where the adventure itself is used as a means of the lead character exploring themselves as well as the more literal physical journey. Davidson endures both physical and psychological hardships along the way. While she never really goes into any detail as to why she is impelled to embark on her journey, we understand from various dream-like flashbacks that her mother committed suicide when she was an infant and this event has gone some way into shaping her the way she is. She is a loner and very self-contained but her subsequent adventure makes her realise more fully in the importance of others and that relying and respecting other folks is no bad thing and her own personal goals should at the very least be offset against these aspects.

Mia Wasikowska is very good as Davidson, she is quite believable in the role in a way that a lot of other actresses would not be, while Adam Driver also makes a mark as the photographer who is a little annoying but essentially a good person. The dramatics are fairly sparse here though because ultimately this is a film about solitude to a large extent. Consequently, a lot of the focus is on the landscape, terrain and animals. The excellent photography is very effective here in capturing both the beauty but also the harsh arid nature of this world. And the camels and dog are elevated to important and lovable characters and are also photographed very well. It should also be pointed out here that Wasikowska really seems to have put herself in some danger with her up and close interactions with some pretty scary mouth-frothing camels. This is clearly a role she committed herself to fully.

I always think that the Australian outback is such a cinematic place and its long flat horizons are particularly well suited to the widescreen frame – think Walkabout (1971), Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) or the more conventional recent Mystery Road (2013). It's specific combination of untamed nature, enigmatic indigenous people, functional isolated settlements and the western world close but so far away is a concoction that is unusual and ensures that Australian films set in the outback do often have their own unique feeling. Tracks is another in this type and it is appealing for all of these reasons. It, of course, has the added advantage of being a true story which always lends something extra. I'm not sure if you could exactly describe it as a travelogue picture though, as aside from brief sequences featuring the likes of Uluru, its landscape is far more harsh and arid and not precisely what you would describe as beautiful. Because of this, it feels like an authentic depiction of the real event. It's a quite minimalistic example of the biopic and a very good one.

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33 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

An OK film based on a great true story

Author: cinematic_aficionado ( from London, England
28 April 2014

The true story of Robyn Davidson's adventure and her crossing of a 1,700 mile across the Australian wilderness.

Whilst it is undoubtedly an amazing feat to be able to achieve this, the sheer remarkableness of this achievement is not conveyed in this film properly. Had we not been aware that this is based on a true story, judging by the film alone one could go so far as to say this was a relatively 'easy' task. The isolation she faced, starvation and dehydration are hardly presented. Instead she seemed to often interact with people who helped her.

At the same time, the stunning landscapes, the might of her determination as well as her complete dependency on the camels and a dog is adequately portrayed.

Overall, this is a mixed bag of impressions. A good film overall, but it deserved to be great.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Great film, it will drive you.

Author: stan k from England
17 August 2014

Tracks follows other films about individuals pushing limits and seeking purpose and adventure. It is tastefully and cleverly executed with talented performance by the lead Mia Wasikowska.

Two short points about this movie.

1) It is exceptional for its ability to draw you into the journey across the desert. Some of the hallucinations etc are tedious but necessary to fill gaps as there are not many characters. The cinematography does the desert and journey justice.

2) In a largely male dominated genre finally a female inspires as the lead character of a adventure story.

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12 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

An adventure taken at walking pace

Author: Adam Peters from Birkenhead United Kingdom
7 September 2014

(89%) A realistic, non-Hollywood adventure drama featuring a brilliant starring role from Mia Wasikowska, and beyond fantastic direction and location work. This maybe is one of the best looking and well shot movies of the year as the screen fills with the harsh yet wonderful outback as the colours of the sand covered landscape dominates everything. The pace will be too slow for the impatient, or those fed on a diet of MTV style garbage cinema with cuts every 2 seconds, but those that are able to immerse themselves into this stunning, simple, and superbly well-made near two hour trip to Australia will be rewarded with a film that is both poignant and magical. A highly recommended alluring marvel that's worth every penny tracking down, especially on the big screen.

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11 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Starry Night

Author: clarkj-565-161336 from Canada
8 June 2014

The scenes I enjoyed the most in this movie were the star shots. Imagine you are sleeping in the outback, and the sky is ablaze with the southern constellations. No matter where you are, there is a star right straight above you; you are not alone.

Being alone is an important theme to Robyn Davidson. We are told by back story that her mother committed suicide at an early age. We are also told that her father wandered all around East Africa prospecting. She is forced to live with her aunt and her beloved dog is put down. The first lines in the movie tell us that movement and change are important to Robyn. Think of a gyroscope. As long as it is spinning, it can provide accurate navigational information. Stop spinning, and it goes out of control.

Travelling with camels also makes sense. Symbolically camels are independent, tough, resourceful and most of all they can go for long periods without the essentials of life. So for Robyn going for long periods with no human contact mimics the camels lack of certain essentials as well. Like her father, she has an instinct for the bush and finds herself at home in that environment. You get the feeling that she could find her way even without her dad's Brunton compass. Also she is able to bond with a whole variety of creatures from wild camels, aboriginals and bushmen. She respects the ways and habits of the people she meets.

This movie has wonderful shots of the outback and the incredible variety of people and places that present themselves. As many adventures do, it has a huge physical as well as psychological component. The acting is well done, there is not an excess of emotion or drama, but Mia and Adam do an excellent job of showing us that there is lots going on underneath it all, which fits exactly.

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