The Story: Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) decides to take a trip to Australia as a means of bringing her husband back home and to sell their failing beef business. Once there she becomes the problem of The Drover (Hugh Jackman) who takes her to the estate of Faraway Downs. Upon finding her husband dead and the estate in disrepair she’s also forced to confront the issues involving a young Aboriginal boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters) who lives in fear of being sold off by the evil Fletcher (David Wenham).
Pros: I’m a huge Baz Luhrmann fan but I was a bit apprehensive about seeing this in theaters after all the negative reviews it received. With it available on DVD I must say the movie didn’t totally fail, but it’s a rental at best. I have to say if any movie easily depicts a by-gone era it’s Australia. This film feels like it belongs on TMC or any other classic film channel. It’s got the perfect blend of sweeping epic, dashing romance, and riveting action that I haven’t seen in quite awhile. Everything about this movie is so grandiose and exquisite, if anything it’s a gorgeous movie to watch and experience. Australia also sheds some light on how the country faced its own battles during WWII with the battle at Darwin, something I found fascinating. While it does focus on that more towards the second and third halves of the film, the best historical moments deal with the Stolen Generation, a group of mixed race children kidnapped and forced into slavery. It’s amazing to watch how these children were abused for so long, and the epilogue even reveals this slavery wasn’t abandoned until the 70’s. Luhrmann totally gives this film his all with the look and historical perspective showing Australia is a labor of love. The cast is fairly strong throughout. Women will be the sole demographic of this film, mostly for the shirtless scenes with Hugh Jackman. While they are enjoyable Jackman has that rugged cowboy character down to a “T” and many have compared him to Bogart in this film. I also loved David Wenham as the evil Fletcher. He’s one of those true movie villains where everything he does is despicable. His scenes with Brandon Walters are truly the high point because Wenham is so disturbing and intimidating.
Cons: The biggest drawback to Australia is the length. At 165 minutes it feels so long I almost abandoned it several times. It’s not that what is shown is bad, it’s just that Luhrmann tries so hard to make a 1940s classic film he throws everything in it. There’s a whole first half involving the odd couple styling of Jackman and Kidman, then there’s the outbreak of war and trying to get Nullah back, then there’s the reuniting of the Sarah and The Drover. The transitions between all three halves are jarring and it would have been easier if Luhrmann had just picked a tale to tell and stuck with it. I also have to place Nicole Kidman in here because he brings the film down considerably, a far cry from Satine in Moulin Rouge. She plays every scene shrieking, looking like she’s going to cry or a combination of the two. It doesn’t help that her face doesn’t show any emotion and that she’s pin-thin. Brandon Walters is also a weak narrator with his constant storytelling. It’s always hit or miss having a stereotypical cute kid to lead the tale and here it’s a definite miss.
Features: For such an epic movie this movie has no bonus features worthy of buying the DVD. The only things on this are two deleted scenes that add a few dialogue scenes but that’s it. No theatrical trailer, no commentary, not even a making-of featurette which is odd since the movie is so complex. Any fans of how this film is made will miss out.
Overall: I enjoyed Australia but not compared to Luhrmann’s past work. The film is highly reminiscent of 1940s classic film and that’s a definite high point and the cast is exemplary. A definite rental for sure, just don’t expect any amazing features. I give the movie a 3.5/5 and the DVD a paltry 2/5.