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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.84%
Average: 4.12%
Pretty Bad: 13.4%
Total Crap: 23.71%

3 reviews, 79 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"Romeo + Kangaroo"
4 stars

“Australia” is not a motion picture odyssey for curmudgeons or cynics. Director Baz Luhrmann is stretching for classic movie poses within a film of marathon sweep and locale, and he achieves his lofty goals with this exhaustively enchanting romantic adventure, making the obscene wait between movies (seven years!) seem all the more easy to comprehend. Luhrmann isn’t desperate to rewrite the rules of cinematic spectacle with “Australia,” he only wants to play in the sandbox of yesteryear’s lavish big screen achievements, while drizzling on his own imaginative flourishes.

Arriving from England pre-WWII, Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) has come to sort out the troubles plaguing her sprawling Northern Australian cattle ranch, Faraway Downs. Finding her husband dead, corrupt caretakers, and an Aboriginal family with nowhere to turn to, Sarah seizes control of the land, much to the dismay of King Carney (Bryan Brown), a rival cattle baron with eyes on purchasing Faraway Downs. Removing the insidious Fletcher (David Wenham) from the property, Sarah is left without help. Enter Drover (Hugh Jackman), a weathered man of the outback who comes to Sarah’s aid, whipping the ranch hands into shape, and finding a place for Nullah (Brandon Walters), a “half-caste” Aboriginal boy trying to avoid governmental detainment during the harsh “Stolen Generations” years. Driving the cattle across the ruthless landscape, romance quickly blossoms between Drover and Sarah, soon threatened by the dawn of WWII and Fletcher’s unstoppable efforts to exact revenge.

While “Australia” is a return to more patient blockbuster filmmaking, it doesn’t exactly mean Luhrmann has rid himself of his cheek-slapping sense of humor. Much like his 1996 blast of style “Romeo + Juliet,” “Australia” opens with a good 20 minutes of severe compositional behavior to unsettle the audience before they’re eventually comforted. Whirring around from location to location to set up the story and introduce the audience to a plethora of characters and motivations, Luhrmann is shot out of a cannon, intriguingly blurring expectations as “Australia” starts to settle down. This brief glimpse of Luhrmann’s more impish behavior is a nice callback to past triumphs, while also thrusting the audience into a strange world of the titular landscape, positioning the viewer in the foreigner role, much like Sarah, taking in the natural majesty of Faraway Downs and the brutal survival instincts required from its residents with eyes wide open.

Once Sarah assumes her responsibility and Drover asserts his cattle knowledge, beginning an understaffed drive across treacherous terrain, “Australia” begins to take customary shape, angling toward the “Gone with the Wind” and “Lawrence of Arabia” style scope that seems to tickle Luhrmann’s fancy the most. A tale of grizzled men, delicate but steely women, and the naturalistic hazards that intimidate relentlessly, the film won’t snatch any awards for originality, but the conviction of the filmmaking is second to none. Luhrmann takes “Australia” to dazzling heights of romantic sincerity and nerve-racking adventure, toying with screen archetypes without a hint of irony; the filmmaker appears fully invested in creating a genuine motion picture event of good vs. evil. Luhrmann has always held a soft spot for love stories, but here he’s shooting for bigness to backdrop emotional simplicity. And I’ll be damned, it works.

“Australia” may not be the most understated of movies, but lending it a distinctive personality is the country itself, and how determined Luhrmann is to keep international flavors out of the mix. This is an Aussie tale all the way to the bone, using pivotal moments of wartime ruin and racial hostility to help fatten the story beyond Drover and Sarah’s domesticated affair. In fact, the film belongs to Nullah, who represents the Aboriginal injustice and divine mysticism of the screenplay, with Luhrmann using the boy to embody issues of unfettered bigotry and cultural divide (see “Rabbit-Proof Fence” for another take on this gut-churning moment in Aussie history). Beyond the fact that Walters gives one of those all-too-rare performances of pure youthful instinct and curiosity the film mines exquisitely, the character comes to be a screen presence the film cannot survive without, forming a triangle of charisma and emotional intensity with Drover and Sarah that the director preserves beautifully over the film’s 160-minute-long running time.

Indeed, “Australia” is a lengthy movie, but not one to mope around. Watching the story embark on a blazing cattle drive, portion out Fletcher’s boiling rage, or smoothly bring together Drover and Sarah as they bond in the outback maintains a strict pace to the movie. There’s a swarm of fluid emotions and action sequences to gorge on here, and with both Jackman and Kidman in top form in the lead roles (the actors are energetic and unfathomably alluring), “Australia” is a painless film to immerse oneself in, especially with all the gorgeous locales and vivid costuming to keep the eye occupied.

A western of Aussie proportions for the first two acts (blessed with cast of local talents, including the legendary David Gulpilil as Nullah’s watchful grandfather), the narrative slips into war mode in the final section, when WWII washes up on Australian shores (depicted here with the bombing of Darwin) and divides our heroes. Here, Luhrmann opens his widescreen framing to the limits of multiplex dimension, staging bombing raids and populace chaos with the proper mix of hysteria and teary melodrama. The cast sells the stuffing out of anything the script gives them, creating more of a poignant journey for the final act than a violent one. The conclusion also pays off a running theme of the movie: the calming magic of “The Wizard of Oz.” With “Over the Rainbow” employed by Sarah to console and bewitch Nullah’s fascination with music, Luhrmann tethers himself to the song and reapplies it everywhere, as a sort of emotional touchstone and communal cinematic tribute. It’s a lovely touch.

Let me be clear: “Australia” is not for the average misanthrope, and those less inclined to swallow Luhrmann’s slippery theatricality will find themselves with bleeding eyes, clawing at the walls to exit the theater. For the more inclined, “Australia” is a dramatically fertile, immersive gem: an epic with true epic intentions and execution, reinvesting in patient storytelling and widescreen magnetism.

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originally posted: 11/27/08 04:09:17
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User Comments

6/20/11 pwhite98270 good story but not very memorable 3 stars
3/18/11 peter a Politically correct rubbush 1 stars
1/24/10 MV Magnificent movie....amazing scenery, brilliant acting. Anyone with a <3 would love this!! 5 stars
9/20/09 Man Out 6 Bucks A Mexican soap opera, but more insipid. Formula is top star. Anyone see the ending? 1 stars
9/20/09 Oswald Outbax I cancelled my trip to the land Downunder after seeing this indulgent flop of flyblown plop 1 stars
7/08/09 *Holy_J@lapeno* Probably one of the most boring movies I have ever watched. I will never watch again 1 stars
5/14/09 Chan Totally unbelievable, best part was when wallabies got shot, only true part! 1 stars
5/05/09 the dork knight The feral kid was a great character. Good performances 4 stars
5/04/09 Joe Smaltz tedious! would have been more interesting if Nicole had shoed more skin. 2 stars
5/04/09 Linda Ellis Absolutely boring and far too long, a bit of everything from past big movies 2 stars
4/26/09 DK Romantic, lavish, epic and wildly entertaining. 4 stars
3/23/09 eidy V Great romantic movie!!! Loved it 5 stars
3/09/09 CTT Big, old-fashioned flick grabbed me right away 5 stars
3/08/09 Aussie Meep Had it's moments, but had to watch much of it in fast forward lest I become bored 2 stars
3/06/09 erik patterson i liked the movie to actually say i liked it 5 stars
3/03/09 BJ If you have a bit of an idea about the real Australia it makes a huge difference this film! 5 stars
2/02/09 aliceinwonderland I do not understand the rating this movie gets.Nothing new and almost boring at times. 2 stars
1/23/09 Missy Absolutely amazing film. Definately in my top 5 ever! Incredible cinematography! 5 stars
1/21/09 steve Wow! Just loved this one! It deserves some Oscar nominations! 5 stars
1/18/09 UK Glenn Beautiful film that doesn't take itself too seriously. I loved it!!! 5 stars
1/09/09 malc so borded. worst film I have ever seen. what a waste of money. and time. 1 stars
12/18/08 ronald a. gagne superb.....great cast 5 stars
12/12/08 Barry Lurmenschenbedektenbrodenwurst Best movie ever period evryone must see it !?! 5 stars
12/12/08 Heidi Predictable. If you must see it, wait and rent it - save the money. 2 stars
12/11/08 Dennis Loved it..will go again great entertainment 5 stars
12/09/08 Elizabeth It's an okay movie, but should have been half-as long. 3 stars
12/08/08 frank had little expectations, but ended up loving it 5 stars
12/06/08 Dan Great movie, terrific human story, and themes. Makes you grateful for goodness in others. 5 stars
12/06/08 CB No wonder people overseas have such stereo-typical views on Aussies - terrible film. 1 stars
12/05/08 Charleton Heston Hugh Jackman is a homo. 1 stars
12/05/08 Murray Loved it, a movie like they used to make 5 stars
12/04/08 Tim Spectacular film! There are a few cheese ball moments, but all in all, the movie is an enjo 5 stars
12/04/08 Leslie Did not care for the move but Hugh Jackman takes my breath away. Looking at him saved it. 3 stars
12/03/08 Shane Could have been a Disney production. What a waste of time and money. 1 stars
12/03/08 kerry great movie that recgnised the stolen generation thanks 4 stars
12/03/08 jcjs33 ok Atonement, a film that doesn't deserve to be up for anything 4 stars
12/03/08 Eddie I was so bored. 1 stars
12/02/08 Misha If this was a series I would be hanging out for the next episode! Just loved it. 5 stars
12/02/08 Eliza Loved the movie! The storyline between Drover, Sarak and Nulla was fantastic. 5 stars
12/02/08 Phil from away The only thing missing was a villain twirling his mustache 1 stars
12/02/08 Andy Not a good movie!!! Walked out before the end. 2 stars
12/01/08 Claire Self-indulgent direction, wooden acting, terrible cgi ... don't waste your money 1 stars
12/01/08 Elaine Agree with review-enjoyed the movie. went to see more of Hugh Jackman, got my wish 4 stars
12/01/08 Mark R Absolutely superb, Nicole was fantastic, perfectly cast, critics should be ashamed.. 5 stars
12/01/08 Amy Fun movie, entertaining, don't listen to the critics! 4 stars
12/01/08 pattie A predictable plot and extremely loud cescendos in case you didn't get the point. 3 stars
12/01/08 Mark An Austrailian "Gone With The Wind" it was Faraway instead of Tara. 4 stars
12/01/08 Kat Nicole gets Baz! Great performance & direction-Loved it, will buy dvd 4 stars
12/01/08 Cathy Loved it. The cinema photography was amazing and the romance was fabulous 4 stars
12/01/08 Susie I watched the credits waiting for the movie to get better. It didn't. 2 stars
12/01/08 Moi Torturous, boring, melodramatic, cliched, "crikey" Jackman tragic: young boy tops 1 stars
12/01/08 Sheryl Lovely. Like an old-fashioned epic. See it. 4 stars
12/01/08 cie59 One of the worst movies that I have ever seen Bad Acting, scripting and editing. Stay away 1 stars
11/30/08 vic go to hell ya US bashers...great movie 5 stars
11/30/08 chris from Perth Wow Aboriginal culture was so out there in this movie- Well done Baz you did us proud 4 stars
11/30/08 Tansi Loved Nullah and the landscape. Story was a little beat... 4 stars
11/30/08 Laura I loved the movie, and never felt that it was too long. 5 stars
11/30/08 Lisa Williams The best movie in a while, beautiful scenery, great acting, and romance. 5 stars
11/30/08 tori Bowie Enjoyed it so much I did not notice the lenght at all. 4 stars
11/30/08 Ian Macdonald Acting great, characters fantastic, scenery unbelievable, a ripping yarn - just a tad long. 4 stars
11/29/08 Lynette I loved every minute of it. It Is like Australia's version of "Gone with the Wind"! 5 stars
11/29/08 Philip Nakashima I love the character of the bush, I love this film for brining this out so powerfully 5 stars
11/29/08 Marianne Loved every minute of it. We need more movies like this. 5 stars
11/29/08 John from NZ Awstrayla...bloody rubbish, should of rented Croc 1 & 2 what desperate movie!! 1 stars
11/29/08 Paulette Lee Stunning photography, fwonderful score, but filled with cliches and cartoon characters. 2 stars
11/29/08 Shelley Manipulative and not effectively so. Tedious 2 stars
11/29/08 Roman Great if you have the mentality of a 12 year old. melodramatic, predictable...boring 2 stars
11/29/08 Bri Goode engrossing and real...way better than the american crap i've seen lately 5 stars
11/29/08 ALEX BELL One big cliche!!!....walked out after the first hour... 2 stars
11/28/08 Marcia Went in with no expectations, and LOVED it! Will watch it again 5 stars
11/28/08 Richard Yes, the story-line has loop holes, but I still loved it. 5 stars
11/27/08 Miranda Great. Alot better than the shit that comes out of America 5 stars
11/27/08 Alex Maxwell It's been a long time since I spent $10 so badly 1 stars
11/27/08 Barbara - American living in Aussie The audience applauded at the end. It was so awesome and I totally agree with the review. 5 stars
11/27/08 David Hastings Pretentious, perfunctory, confusing and distracted. A children's movie. Post-modern junk. 1 stars
11/27/08 Mick All Americans are officially homeless bums. UHZZIES OWN THEIR SHIT! 5 stars
11/26/08 Mark 'Australia' is an incredible film. Wonderful, unashamed melodrama! 4 stars
11/26/08 vanessa stevenson what a bloody barry crocker - in austrlain term: a SHOCKER 2 stars
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  26-Nov-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 03-Mar-2009


  DVD: 03-Mar-2009

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