Review Catch-Up: “Australia”

January 13, 2009 at 12:17 pm Leave a comment

Finishing up some old review I’ve been too slow in posting.  Enjoy!

Australia, Baz Luhrman’s 4th film, is an old-fashioned adventure-romance set in, you guessed it, Australia during World War II in the Pacific.  The romantic plot isn’t all that original (beautiful, rich aristocratic woman falls in love with a rough-around-the-edges adventurer), but the settings and the characters keep this movie from floundering.

I must stress that this is very reminiscent of the old Hollywood epics of years past.  The scenery is grand, the characters are over-the-top, and the score swells at just the right time.  Nicole Kidman plays Sarah Ashley, an English woman whose husband owns a ranch in the wilderness of Australia.  The ranch is failing and is in danger of being bought by a local business owner, King Carney (Bryan Brown).  Ashley hires a local by the name of Drover (Hugh Jackman) to help drive her cattle to a shipyard in order to save the ranch.  There’s also a secondary story about the indigenous people of Australia, represented by a young boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters) who’s father is a white man.

Many people complain of the film’s length and dull second half.  It’s true, this film is roughly 2 1/2 hours, and the transition from a great first act is rough.  The plot switches from an adventurous trek through the Australian outback to a more serious tone when the Japanese fleet approaches the port city of Darwin.  The final 30 or so minutes depict the Bombing of Darwin in February of 1942, and the subsequent aftermath.  While it’s a nice set piece, it feels a bit out of place and doesn’t mesh too well with the rest of the film.

It’s a satisfying movie overall and one worth checking out.  Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman have excellent chemistry together and they really sell the love story.  Also, Brandon Walters never gets annoying as many child characters do in these kinds of movies.  He’s like the Short Round to Jackman’s Drover.  I can’t wait for the home video release of this, as I have a feeling 20th Century Fox will give it some really nice features, a la Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge!.

8/10

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