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 »
When King Carney hands the pen to Captain Dutton to sign the sales contract, its black cap is up. When the camera angle changes, it's down in his hand. 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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Quite fun epic-pastiche but doesn't quite work even if it is easy to be caught up in the sweep of it all
Australia came out between Christmas and New Year in the UK and this was quite befitting it as this is the time when the television usually has those fluffy but expensive specials and epic productions clogging it up, all with the excuse of being perfect "doze in front of the telly" stuff for the wake of eating too much. I say this fits Australia because in truth much of Baz Luhrmann's film could be accused of being just that bloated, silly, sweeping, moving, engaging but ultimately quite light in the substance department. Our story is an traditional "epic" romance in the mould of many old films where the rough hero and the cut-glass woman fall for one another against a backdrop of cattle drives and war. If alarm bells are ringing for you then they were for me as well, since this concept reminded me a bit of Pearl Harbour that terribly wooden affair that dragged on far too long to be able to cover the problems with big explosions.
The good news is that Australia is better than Pearl Harbour. The bad news is that it still isn't a fantastic film so much as it is the type of film that one likes despite it all, not because of it. The film wears its epic feel like a big coat and it covers it completely to the point that there is no denying the ambition of Luhrmann. We get massive spectacle, sweeping emotion, ethnic mysticism and constant unreal cinematography that makes the whole thing look gorgeous to the point of being unreal. In this regard the film works because there is a lot going on and, despite one's reservations, it feels like we are watching this epic film that is important and emotional and creative. The truth is perhaps a little less impressive because the mix of the epic and the fanciful doesn't come off for Luhrmann as well as it has in other films. Here one rather affects the other and the "big real story" sits uncomfortably with "unlikely sweeping narrative gestures" and "mystical power of the Aborigine". To some this will be just part of the magic of the film but for me it got a bit tiresome and felt like too much had been thrown into the pot.
That said, it somehow does work and generally I got caught up in the sweep and majesty of the whole thing caring about the characters, touched by the slight magic in the story and the delivery. Although they don't mix that well, the camp style is woven into some aspects to prevent it becoming dry, unlikely and wooden in the way that it did in Pearl Harbour. The direction and cinematography drive this but the cast help. Jackman is not "great" in traditional terms but his beefy, chiselled frame plays well to the broad matinée idol type that he must deliver as. By contrast Kidman doesn't quite pull it off. Sure she is convincingly dry and uptight at the start but she doesn't loosen in a way that works that well. Walters is a bit too sickly cute for my liking but within the context of Luhrmann's world, he just about works even if he was a bit too front and centre within the film. Brown is a nice find in support and generally everyone is OK for what is required.
It is too long and it does have far too much in there for its own good but it just about works. I can understand why some hate it and some love it because it is that type of film but, for all its flaws (and it does have them), the big colourful, emotional sweep of it all is hard to resist. I'll admit that I would be unlikely to watch it again until it comes to TV for free in about 5 years but it has its charm and although it is not perfect I did think it was quite a good film and one that is typically Luhrmann in creation.
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