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Review: Australia (2008) PG-13 165min

December 1st, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 7,569 Views

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3/5

This pre-WWII adventure set in Australia’s Northern Territory is directed by Baz Luhrmann, written by Stuart Beattie, Baz Luhrmann, Ronald Harwood and Richard Flanagan based on story by the director himself and starring Australia’s natives Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

More PhotosThe plot: In 1939 an English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) inherits a huge ranch in northern part of Australia. When she arrives there she finds her husband killed and competitors plotting a takeover. At the ranch she also discovers the discrimination against aboriginal and sees their children forcefully taken from parents to be “civilized” under church’s supervision. With the help of local cowboy named Drover (Hugh Jackman) and a few natives they drive 2,000 cattle heads across the vast country to Darwin to sell them to the army preparing for the World War II. Soon, however, the War break out, and Japanese airplanes bomb Darwin. The pair gets separated from each other and from the native boy they were caring about named Nullah, who got snatched by police and put together with other mixed-race children in care of the church on the island. Unfortunately the island is a strategic bombing target for Japanese airplanes.

The good: Several nice landscape shots here and there. Good acting by Kidman, Jackman and David Gulpilil, who played King George (as well as tracker in Rabbit-Proof Fence and also a supporting role in The Proposition – another great Australian Western), Nullah’s grandfather. Especially good acting by Brandon Walters who played Nullah – the 10-year old boy, son of an aboriginal woman from the ranch and a white rancher who’s trying to take over Lady Ashey’s ranch. Really enjoyed watching this kid on the screen and being the most interesting character in the film.

The bad: It’s just a lousy movie. Entire movie is shot like a fairytale, with a fairytale-like story. Ridiculous costumes. Ridiculous dialogs. Cartoonish characters with a lot of cliches and stereotypes. The audience in the theater was disgusted by shots of shirtless Hugh Jackman soaping himself and then rinsing himself by pouring a bucket of water on his head, or when he appears in white costume on the duchess’s ball or out of the fog in the final scene – it’s worse then Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull! Huge problems with continuity. The main theme of the movie is the “Lost Generation” – the victims of Australian government’s policy of separating mixed-race children from their parents in order to “civilize” them – a policy that didn’t stop until 1973 and which nearly cost the prime minister of Australia his post in 2008 when he officially apologised for this policy. The “Rabbit-proof fence” was an Oscar-winning drama four years ago about the same subject that was beautiful, dramatic and effective in story telling as well. But “Australia” focuses on this adventure of driving cattle through the rugged terrain with many dangers awaiting, and the story of aborigenes suffering is lost at it. One of the worst CGI effects I’ve seen in the movies recently. Bad selection of movie sets. There are several scenes in the movie shot around the same tree from different angles and “sold” to viewers as different locations. CGI airplanes, explosions, port, city, fleet, ships, mountains… – so obvious it’s like watching the old Star Wars!

The summary: This is an Australian adventure movie for children – a sort of Narnia/Golden Compass fairytale. Considering there is some nudity and bed scenes, which required a PG-13 rating, it seems the age range of children who are going to see this epic-wanna-be will be quite small. It’s almost as if this movie was designed to prove that Nicole Kidman still looks good naked and Hugh Jackman to parade his strength and impressive physique (as well as his package in tight jeans). The acting, the costumes and the story are so over-the-top I wondered for most of the film why it isn’t animated. Very disappointing.

Similar [but better] movies: Rabbit-Proof Fence, The Proposition.

The cast: Lady Sarah Ashley - Nicole Kidman | Drover - Hugh Jackman | Nullah - Brandon Walters | Bull – Ray Barrett | King Carney – Bryan Brown | Sergeant Callahan – Tony Barry | King George – David Gulpilil | Ivan – Jacek Koman | Aboriginal Tracker – Crusoe Kurddal | Magarri – David Ngoombujarra

The crew: Director – Baz Luhrmann | Writers – Stuart Beattie, Baz Luhrmann, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan | Producers – Baz Luhrmann, G. Mac Brown, Catherine Knapman, Catherine Martin, Paul ‘Dubsy’ Watters | Original Music – David Hirschfelder | Cinematography – Mandy Walker | Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

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Rated 3/5 on Dec 1 2008
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Tags: Adventure · Australia · Drama · Foreign · USA · Westerns

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