Old 01-24-2009, 06:29 PM

Australia (2008)

What a marvelous idea to set an epic against the beautiful backdrop of Australia. The wide open spaces in the Outback make it perfect for a movie that is partially about driving cattle. When the female hero arrives, she is quite taken with the beauty of a group of kangaroos jumping right along next to her car, but with a single gunshot, she is forced into reality. As are we.

"Australia" tells the story of Sarah Ashley as she goes to find her husband on his cattle ranch in Australia. Upon her arrival, she finds that he has been murdered, supposedly by one of the local aborigines. Her original plan was to sell the ranch to King Carney (Bryan Brown), who basically has a monopoly on the beef industry, but when she is told of suspicious behavior involving Carney's men from a young boy, Nullah (Brandon Walters), she changes her mind and decides to drive the cattle to Darwin to be sold to the U.S. Army. To help her, she enlists the help of a drover, who is only known as.....Drover (Hugh Jackman). Perfect name, right?

This being an epic, the cattle drive is only part of the story. King Carney's son, Neil (David Wenham), will stop at nothing to make sure they don't succeed in reaching Darwin. The story goes on as World War II reaches Australia with the Japanese bombing of Darwin. This leads to absolute chaos as lives hang in the balance and people try with all their might to find their loved ones again.

Baz Luhrmann has delivered an incredibly beautiful epic, earning high marks for its direction, cinematography, and art-direction. Not only was it beautiful to look at, but it also had a fantastic story that flowed almost flawlessly from scene to scene. It seems to be getting rarer and rarer these days that studios will take chances on big epics like this, but that is mainly because the stories usually will not stand up to the epic running time of two and a half to three hours.

Granted, there was probably about 20-30 minutes of this film between acts two and three that could have stood to be cut out, but it really does not hurt the film that much. The only reason that this section could have stood some editing is because it is just providing a false ending, making us think that everything is going to end all right, when most people probably already know that the story is not nearly over.

This film has been criticized for being a bit to melodramatic. It did feel a bit like that sometimes, but it never hurts the flow of the film. A large part of the story involves a romance between Sarah and Drover, so we know that it is going to get at least a little melodramatic. However, those who were expecting an adventure film will also be pleased, as that is also a large part of the story.

Another thing that some epics tend to do is that they try to combine so many things into one film that it eventually loses itself among those things. Luhrmann does a great job in keeping his elements separate, which allows the story to proceed without being bogged down or losing its own identity. There is a little something here for everyone. It's part romance, adventure, action, war, and drama.

Nicole Kidman is stunning as always and has surprisingly good chemistry with Hugh Jackman. Of course, this is not the first time that Kidman has worked with director Baz Luhrmann. They had collaborated on Luhrmann's previous project, his masterpiece "Moulin Rouge!" Jackman plays the tough guy Drover really well, and with a decent Australian accent no less. Drover and Lady Ashley may seem like a very unlikely couple, but we all know that eventually there will be a spark between them. 12-year-old Brandon Walters must also be mentioned for his amazing performance as Nullah, the young boy who is seen as an outcast because he is half black and half white.

Some people may find the runtime of 155 minutes to be a large turnoff, but that is no reason to reject a movie completely. The sheer beauty of this film is enough reason to watch it, and the epic story behind it just makes it better. I have always been a sucker for epics like "Lord of the Rings," "Lawrence of Arabia," and "Ben-Hur," and while this may not be as good as those, it is still definitely worth seeing.

It was surprising to see that off all the amazing technical awards that this film could have been nominated for, that the Academy chose to nominate the costumes instead, which were good, but not particularly impressive. But at least we all know that Hugh Jackman will be there on Oscar night....well, for hosting anyway. 3.5/4 stars.

Last edited by Hal2001; 01-24-2009 at 06:50 PM..
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