out of Five
Running time: 165
Part western, part war movie and part epic romance, Baz Luhrmann's latest extravaganza is cheesy and ridiculous on several levels but it's also surprisingly enjoyable and never boring, despite its lengthy running time.
What's it all about?
Directed by Baz Luhrmann, Australia is set in 1939 and stars Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley, who comes to Darwin, Australia to join her cattle-farming husband, only to discover that he's been murdered and that evil land baron King Carney (Bryan Brown) has designs on her property. To save the farm, she has to drive the cattle to port, so she enlists the help of a rough-edged cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) and they set off on the drive, while keeping one step ahead of her scheming former manager, Fletcher (David Wenham).
Meanwhile, Sarah also takes a young mixed race boy (Brandon Walters as Nullah, who also narrates the story) under her wing, to stop him being taken away from his family (including David Gulpilil). And when Nullah disappears, Sarah sets out to find him, unaware that Darwin is about to be attacked by the Japanese airforce.
Kidman and Jackman make a likeable screen partnership and there's genuine chemistry between them, which is just as well, since the dialogue is at best cheesy and at worst laughable throughout. Similarly, Wenham and Brown make very hissable villains, while Brandon Walters makes an impressive debut, even if Nullah's speech patterns take a little getting used to.
Luhrmann makes full use of his epic canvas and orchestrates some extremely enjoyable set-pieces, from the exciting cattle stampede to the Pearl Harbour-esque aerial attack sequence. The film also crackles with energy and never drags, despite its lengthy running time.
That said, the film is also riddled with flaws - for example, Lady Sarah undergoes a complete character transformation in just three days and the film's sudden lurches in narrative are extremely jarring. In addition, the frequent references to The Wizard of Oz don't really work.
Despite its flaws, Australia remains an exciting, romantic and ultimately moving epic. Worth seeing.
Australia London Premiere
Australia - Behind the Scenes