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Australia
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Australia – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Set in 1939, Lady Ashley (Kidman) flies from England to Australia to coax her philandering husband back from Faraway Lands and sell his cattle business.

There, she meets a sexy cowboy, Drover (Jackman), who drives her to her husband’s ranch, where she finds that her husband has been killed.

A half-white-half-aboriginal kid Nullah (Walters) tells her that another rancher, King Carney (Brown), has been stealing her husband’s cattle.

Captivated by Australia’s stunning landscape and determined to save her husband’s business, she decides to drive the cattle across no man’s land to the port city of Darwin, to sell it to the army, which is getting ready to go to war against the Japanese. But she needs help — and it comes in the shape of Drover.

They get the cattle to Darwin, where they beat King Carney in selling their bulls to the Army. Success!
Love kindles between Lady Ashley and Drover. They, and Nullah, move back to Faraway Lands, where they live happily until Nullah decides to do the aboriginal “walk about” and vanishes. In spite of Lady Ashley’s pleas, Drover refuses to go out looking for Nullah and leaves.

Nullah is arrested by the police and sent off with other mixed-race kids to a mission where he is trained to be a servant. Soon the Japanese jets arrive and bomb Darwin to the ground. Chaos ensues and Drover comes back looking for Lady Ashley and the kid.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

“Crikey!” What was all that about?

Australia has the ingredients of an epic, but feels more like a B-movie that tries to be an epic. In spite of evident attempts to draw from other classics like “Gone with the Wind” and “The African Queen” and other 40’s cowboy movies, Australia fails to impress and you end up laughing when you are supposed to cry and crying when you’re supposed to laugh. It’s littered with clichés and lacks emotional depth. Even the aggressive use of swelling music score in poignant moments fails to evoke any feeling in us.

So what went wrong?

It starts with a flawed script, which suffers from a fragmented and predictable plot, uninteresting and one-dimensional characters and stilted dialogue. It takes almost an hour to set up the characters and when it moves to the long-awaited second act, it feels more like a new movie than a new act.

Even after an hour, we are still struggling to connect with the characters. The lead guy, Drover, is busy being cool and sexy and the lead girl, Lady Ashley, is busy being silly and ludicrous, and somehow, in spite of the ostensible incompatibilities and acrimonious arguments between them, they manage to surprise us with a kiss under the night’s glinting stars!

What about the performances? Frankly, you can’t blame the actors when they don’t have a decent script to work with, but even so, Hugh Jackman, who was recently voted the sexiest man alive, was not acting; he was posing as if he was in a modelling show. And when his moment comes and tears stream down his face, you can’t help but laugh at him. Nicole Kidman tries her best but sadly fails to rouse any meaningful empathy with her character.

Surprisingly, the newcomer, Brandon Walters, who plays the kid and narrates the story, saves the day with his sweet smiles and believable performances.

The film, nonetheless, looks gorgeous and filled with exhilarating images of Australia’s magnificent landscape and thrilling scenes of stampeding bulls and galloping horses. Though some of the scenes are supplied by CGI.

This is an ambitious film. It celebrates the aboriginal culture and exalts their tradition that was ridiculed and even banned for so many years by the Australian authorities. It’s evident that the director wanted to make a statement about the dark history of Australia, when the whites oppressed the natives and stripped them of their basic human rights.

Opens nationwide 26 December 2008

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