Australia (2008)

(On TV, July 2015) I probably could have written the following review without seeing Australia, so consistent is director Baz Luhrmann when he gets to work: Fantastic visual style, great performances by the lead actors, a bit of an underwhelming script and a sense of excess that overflows from every frame.  As it turns out, that’s an accurate assessment: This take on World-War-Two northern Australia is every bit as lush and excessive as we could expect it from the creator of Moulin Rouge!  Nicole Kidman is radiant as a widow taking on her deceased husband’s ranch, running against cattle barons trying to take it from her, but meeting a charming cattle driver played by the always-photogenic Hugh Jackman.  Thematically, Australia is more concerned about aboriginal exploitation, spending a lot of time fretting over a young boy’s problems as he’s taken away from the ranch.  Still, this is all an excuse for razzle-dazzle epic, perhaps none more over-the-top than the cliff-side stampede.  To its credit, Australia is about show and spectacle, and there’s definitely a place for that kind of stuff.  The landscape is impressive, and shot in consequence.  Less fortunately, this tendency toward excess can lead to unchecked lengths and meandering storytelling – and yet, for a movie so grandiosely titled, Australia doesn’t always feel as epic as it should be.  It’s not as innovative as it could have been either, as Luhrmann giving a lot of energy trying to re-create familiar sequences.  Still, it’s decently entertaining –often on the sole basis of its wide-screen ambition.  I suppose that it could have been worse –at least we get almost exactly what we expected from the film.

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