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Australia (2008)

DVD Cover (Twentieth Century Fox)
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5.5
 / 10
5 votes
Genres:
Adventure, Period Film, Romantic Epic
Director:
Baz Luhrmann Baz Luhrmann
Starring:
Shea Adams Shea Adams
Eddie Baroo Eddie Baroo
Ray Barrett Ray Barrett
Tony Barry Tony Barry
Jamal Sydney Bednarz Jamal Sydney Bednarz
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Review by bluemeanie
Added: December 02, 2008
Ever wonder what would happen if "Gone with the Wind" met "Crocodile Dundee"? Besides Mammy getting eaten by a crocodile, the result would be "Australia", the adventurous and ballsy new epic from director Baz Luhrmann, who last dazzled our senses with his 2001 musical "Moulin Rouge" which did rather well come awards time. He has been slaving over this film for what seems like an eternity, with Russell Crowe originally attached to star before bowing out. There have been so many rumors and delays and production reports about this film, I was starting to wonder if it was ever going to find completion. "Australia" is in the tradition of the best of David Lean epics, with the wide-eyed wonder of the open landscape and the true sense of a film that knows what it wants to be and what it needs to do to get there. Baz Luhrmann did, with this film, what James Cameron wanted to do with "Titanic". Both succeeded in their own ways. "Australia" is a better film.

The film is set in - you guessed it - Australia. Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) arrives to find her husband, who traveled to Australia to run a cattle farm and make loads of cash. When she arrives, she is shocked to find her husband recently killed in what seems like an accident. A man known as Drover (Hugh Jackman) becomes her love/hate relationship of choice and a small half breed named Nullah (Brandon Walters) her surrogate child. Lady Ashley decides to assist Drover in moving 1500 heads of cattle across Australia and to the city, where they would be collecting a nice sum of money and socking one to the wealthiest man around, King Carney (Bryan Brown). That is the first half of the film. The second half deals with Lady Ashley, Drover and Nullah going back to the ranch and settling down before unforeseen circumstances take over and send them all back to the city for more adventure and intrigue. David Wenham co-stars as Fletcher, the villain of the piece who was very similar to Luhrmann's villain from "Moulin Rouge".

The scope of this film is impressive. Luhrmann's pulled out all the stops for this picture and was determined to craft a film in the grande tradition of "Gone with the Wind" or "Lawrence of Arabia" - and the funny thing is that he succeeds. "Australia" works on all those levels. It has romance, it has drama, it has adventure and it has a satisfying resolution. I guess you could say his approach was more homage than anything else but the film really does stand on its own. I was especially impressed with his attention to details in the film. He didn't skimp in any area. The art direction is fantastic and maintains Luhrmann's signature styles. The cinematography is expansive and really captures the beauty of the Australian landscape. And the original score from David Hirschfelder is very likely going to find an Academy Award nomination because it's that kind of score that really does make an epic adventure film like this. Kudos to Luhrmann and his talented group of artists who brought the beauty and the rambunctious spirit of this film to life.

And let me express how happy I am that Russell Crowe did not do this film. I cannot imagine him in the role of Drover. Hugh Jackman brings a handsome charm and a mischief to the role that Crowe does not possess. Drover would have been brooding all the time. Jackman strikes the right balance between performance and homage and it really works. Nicole Kidman also turns in yet another fantastic performance in a role that requires a wide range of emotions. Say what you will about her but she really is one of the finest actresses working today. The most remarkable performance came from Brandon Walters as Nullah, who really is the star of the film. I have a hard time recalling a better child performance in a film. David Wenham is menacing enough as the villain and Bryan Brown is quite nice in his memorable, but brief role. What Luhrmann did was instill in his cast exactly what he wanted, which is something taken for granted about a lot of other directors working today. They just assume their actors know. They don't.

What a treat this was. The film runs at 2 hours and 45 minutes, but it felt like it was a two-hour picture. It keeps your undivided attention and it manages not to fall flat in its second act. A film like this could have been an epic disaster for Luhrmann, and I don't know that it will live up to all financial expectations, but it certainly does deliver the goods. It just had that feeling of a classic and that needs to count for something - recreation is not simple. Baz Luhrmann for Best Director? Maybe. We'll see how things shape up. David Hirschfelder for Best Original Score? A lock. I would also even consider Nicole Kidman for a Best Actress nomination based on her work here. I think this film will dominate the technical categories but struggle in the others. Regardless, it is a fantastic film, a fine accomplishment and a rousing entertainment.

8/10.
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waxtadpole3657 #1: waxtadpole3657 - added 12/05/2008, 06:43 PM
Glad to see you liked it. I really want to see it, and then I saw that it was getting lukewarm reviews.
waxtadpole3657 #2: waxtadpole3657 - added 12/05/2008, 06:44 PM
And the grammar I used in that sentence made no sense. XD
Lucid Dreams #3: Lucid Dreams - added 06/26/2010, 10:43 AM
Meh. 5/10
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