Thursday, 31 December 2009

Film Review: AUSTRALIA (2008)

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Running time: 159 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): 12

Watched on Sky+ Wednesday 30th December 2009.


This is one of those big rolling epic films that sometimes you wish people wouldn’t make. I saw the version cut for TV that, at a massive 159 minutes, was quite long enough for me. In fact it would have been batter to expand the second half and make it as two films, IMHO. Anyhow, I digress; the film is set just at the beginning of World War Two in Darwin and at the cattle station of Faraway Downs.

Lady Sarah Ashley has travelled from England to find out what her husband is doing about selling the Faraway Downs property. Unfortunately she arrives just after he has been killed. She decides to move the cattle from the property to Darwin and use the profits to keep the property going. To do this she enlists the help of Drover, a local cattle man, his man Magarri, a few others and, most importantly, Nullah. Now Nullah has an aboriginal mother and a white father, Fletcher who is the son-in-law of the major landowner in the area, Carney. Fletcher wants nobody to know about the boy because of his wife and her connections and so he is trying to get him taken away to a mission for such children. As they are driving the cattle to Darwin, Carney gets wind of what they are doing and sends Fletcher to stop them. He nearly succeeds but they manage to get there and sell the cattle under the nose of Carney. Lady Sarah asks Drover to become her station manager which he, at first, refuses but later relents when it’s clear that the two are more than just friends. At this point we’re about half way through, & I’ve missed an awful lot out, so I’m going to leave my summary here as I don’t want to spoil the second half of the movie for you (honest).

As I said at the beginning this is a rolling epic film. It’s almost like one of those massive westerns they used to make, but set in Australia. Technically it’s pretty well made; some of the action scenes when Darwin is being bombed by the Japanese are really well done. Decent performances from the leading cast members, Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley, Hugh Jackman as Drover, Brandon Walters as Nullah, David Ngoombujarra as Magarri, David Wenham as Neil Fletcher and Bryan Brown as King Carney.

As I said at the beginning, this should have been two films, one establishing Lady Sarah’s role and the drove to Darwin, and one showing what ensued including the bombing of Darwin. It’s almost like the filmmakers were trying to tell a story that is too big and I don’t feel they succeeded. I got that Lady Sarah and Drover fell in love, but I didn’t get her strong connection to Nullah, very important in the second half of the film. It kind of fell flat for me there and never really got going again. Maybe I found the plot a bit too predictable, I don’t know. But there you have it, it’s long, it’s a love story and there’s some bombing. Not sure I’d recommend it, but fans of romance movies may find something in it.

My score: 6.1/10

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