Australia (2008)

Adventure, Drama, History, Romance, War
Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Shea Adams, Eddie Baroo
Set in northern Australia before World War II, an English aristocrat who inherits a sprawling ranch reluctantly pacts with a stock-man in order to protect her new property from a takeover plot. As the pair drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape, they experience the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by Japanese forces firsthand.
Built on lavish vistas and impeccable production, Australia is unfortunately burdened with thinly drawn characters and a lack of originality.
  • 20th Century Fox Company:
  • PG-13 Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 26 Nov 2008 Released:
  • 03 Mar 2009 DVD Release:
  • $49.4M Box office:

All subtitles:



Trailer:

Tremendous Romantic Adventure - Forget The Cynics!10/10
Australia is a totally unashamedly romantic adventure film painted on a huge canvas.

We totally enjoyed every minute: it is what cinema can be - stirring, fun, involving - and made us forget the world for nearly three hours.

If Spielberg had made this (And it really looks like he could have) it would be called a masterpiece - Luhrman has done a fantastic job and if it needed reediting then they got it right.

It is fun, big fun, with a real sense of adventure and romance and we loved it.

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are well supported by an excellent cast and produce great chemistry.

All in all in a sea of serious films this stands out as being tremendously good entertainment and a marvelous film.

We love it.
Crikey! More Cheese than a Farmhouse Stilton.5/10
I have no idea what to make of Australia. It can't possibly be a serious movie, right? It certainly starts as a camp comedy, then lurches into a cliched action romance adventure, before descending into an attempt at World War Two melodrama and finishing with a dubious helping of Elgar over a rather uncomfortable attempt at serious social commentary. Elgar? I mean why? My dictionary defines a farrago as a confused mixture, a hodgepodge or medley. That sums up Australia perfectly, a farrago. It has no idea what it wants to be so it attempts to be everything to everyone and fails at almost all of it. You can only get away with this stuff if you are really clever and have a well honed sense of irony and your tongue kept firmly in your cheek. Australia is neither clever nor ironic enough, which is a pity, because I loved Moulin Rouge, but after watching The Man with One Noun, The Drover, send a band of wild horses galloping past the ranch house yet again for no discernible reason, I turned to my companion and said I thought Australia might be Bonanza meets Monty Python.

I'm sorry if this sounds cruel, but when this much money is thrown at a movie and it turns out to be this inadequate, I actually feel quite miffed. Had it cost $10M, it might be excusable. At $100M plus, it isn't. I never, ever thought I'd find myself saying this, but Nicole Kidman is probably the best thing in this film, and the reason for that is because Kidman is actually quite good on the camp level (see her in Moulin Rouge or Practical Magic) – I have a problem with her as a serious actress (The Hours, Margot at the Wedding.) Had director Baz Luhrmann stuck at the camp tongue in cheek genre, we'd all have been better off. Instead he gets serious and we get a script in which - especially in the second half - every other line of dialog is a grating cliche and competing story threads lead to superficial treatments of what could, taken individually, be quite interesting plots. I will say upfront that I don't blame any of the actors, I think they all did a reasonable job given the material. I get the feeling that Kidman, Jackman, Wenham et al all took a deep breath, tightened their belts, firmed their jaws and said "OK, we've been paid for this, let's give it our best shot." There's an enthusiastic "let's put on the show in the barn" feel to the acting. Or maybe it's me?

The (multiple) stories: there's an aristocratic woman arriving in an alien hot land to take control of a ranch which was her husband's purchase (think Out of Africa but without Meryl Streep). There's a cattle drive across the Outback (again heavily borrowed from Out of Africa) and the criminally wasted diversion into the desert to try and find water, which could, if handled properly, have led to some quite interesting drama. The heroine can't have children (O of A again) and takes up with an attractively roguish man (Robert Redford / Hugh Jackman) while taking on responsibility for the Kikuyu/Aboriginals who inhabit her land because unlike 99.99% of the other white colonizers, she has a conscience - surprise surprise. There are aerial shots of the Australian Outback – compare to the aerial shots of the Rift Valley in O of A - there's the pantomime villain Neil Fletcher played by David Wenham (apparently picking up where he left off in The Proposition playing an identical character, called Eden Fletcher – is there some significance to the name that a non Australian doesn't get?) then we lurch into the bombing of Darwin and the rescue of the lost children. If there are movie awards for plagiarism, Australia is in the running. It's an understatement to say it lacks originality.

It's also far, far too long, falling into a genre I'm beginning to call the 'Depends' movie, after the adult diapers required to sit through it - especially necessary when you realize that the only really acceptable way to watch Australia is after several drinks. Combine this with CGI which barely attempts to blend into the live action, an almost unbearably cute kid (Brandon Walters is heart melting) plus a cast which features every Australian actor who's graduated drama school since WW2, and what exactly is this movie supposed to be? Even as an advert for the Aussie tourist industry I doubt it works as well as The Proposition, which had better shots of dramatic Outback scenery. And how many visitors go to the Northern Territories to watch cattle droves? If Luhrmann really did edit this down from many more hours of film, then possibly he can re-issue a director's cut which works better. I see it working as a musical, along the lines of Moulin Rouge. The corn is certainly as high as a kangaroo's eye.

I went with a (female) friend who is a Hugh Jackman fan and I will, if cornered, admit to being a closet David Wenham groupie, so we were well primed to enjoy this, two girlies on a Friday night out - probably the target audience. But even Jackman taking his shirt off couldn't save it (and believe me, I've seen other movies where a Jackman shirt removal certainly did save the day.) I have no idea how much they paid David Wenham to make this, but it probably wasn't enough. It's not as bad as their other foray together, Van Helsing, but that's not saying much. And OK, the costumes were pretty. But the rest? Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear…
After all of the publicity and the hype that preceded it, Baz Luhrmann's larger than life and highly entertaining epic, Australia, has finally arrived.8/10
Here is a film that works on multiple levels; thrilling action adventure, detailed period piece, moving romance, stirring war movie, and it also continues the resurrection of the western.

As a result, the sum of its vast parts make for a long running film (165 min), yet every minute is filled to the brim with captivating detail.

What Luhrmann does well with Australia is tap into the majestic allure of the outback, and amplifies it. This is no surprise, since he is a master at approaching his material with a fantastical bent, creating truly memorable and often surreal sequences, which Australia provides plenty.

Aboriginal culture and its relationship with nature, in particular, have fuelled Luhrmann's imaginative vision. The heart and soul of Australia lies within the mythology and customs of Australia's indigenous people, and their often tumultuous relationship with European settlers.

This is made flesh in the form of young Nullah, a mixed race Aboriginal boy on the run from the authorities, who want to forcibly remove him from his home, and place him in a "civilised" environment. He is played by Brandon Walters, who is impressive in his debut performance.

With Nullah playing narrator, the viewer is introduced to Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), an English aristocrat who inherits her late husband's cattle station, which is located in the Northern Australian city of Darwin. Caught in a rivalry with fellow beef exporter King Carney (Bryan Brown), Lady Ashley enlists the services of The Drover (Hugh Jackman) to herd 1500 head of cattle in order to fulfil a contract with the Australian Army.

Both Kidman and Jackman – two exceptionally gifted actors who, with the help of Australia, have overcome recent rocky patches in their careers – provide noteworthy performances and believable on screen chemistry.

Tall, pale, and thin, Kidman plays regal very well, courting an in full force stiff upper lip, that gives way to several funny moments, while trying to break out of her icy exterior. Of particular mention is her vain attempt to herd cattle; and a woeful rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" to a clearly amused Walters.

Jackman, meanwhile, evokes Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and Humphrey Bogart to fine effect as the no nonsense, hands on Drover, while also providing eye candy for female viewers.

Supporting roles are superbly fulfilled by top shelf Australian talent: Bryan Brown is effective yet given a disappointing limited amount of screen time; Jack Thompson seems to be gleefully enjoying his role as an alcoholic lawyer; and a scene stealing David Wenham is all evil smirks and nasty attitude as the films key villain.

Yet the most impressive character in Australia has to be its awe inspiring and vibrant landscape, which is captured magnificently by cinematographer Mandy Walker.

Unfortunately, the films use of artificial visual effects does clash with the natural beauty that the outback projects.

Australia is a film which clearly parades its influences on screen. References to The African Queen, Gone with the Wind, and Big Country are particularly notable.

Yet it is no mere carbon copy of the films from decades past. Rather, Australia is an enchanting throwback to an era of film-making which strived to entertain its audiences with dazzling spectacle and melodrama, coupled with a historical snapshot of circa early 1940s Darwin, and all of the beauty and ugliness that comes with it.
Uneven, hulking monster of a film5/10
This film struggled throughout its epic length to stay upright. Unfortunately at the end it stumbled and fell like a pile of bricks.

It tried to juggle so much but in the end, it all turned out to be too little. The film starts like a corny slapstick comedy, turns into a romantic fantasy, then into an outback adventure, then into a war movie, a heartfelt drama, a comment on the stolen generation, a comment on racism... etc, etc. It's just too much. Yes, it's supposed to be an epic, but things like this need to be handled with finesse. Unfortunately, it isn't in this case. The themes were too muddled, the script too stretched - it's a mess. The characters are cardboard cutouts, the acting is over the top and cheesy, the pacing is off, the bizarre use of Somewhere Over the Rainbow... It's just a broken film.

Being an Australian, I did hope that this movie would be alright, but it turned out to be almost 3 hours of wankery that disgracefully cost our taxpayers over $40m.

On a more positive note, on the whole it wasn't BORING, and it was aesthetically and aurally pleasing - even though it made use of countless, shameless green screen shots which were simply unnecessary.

There was ONE great scene in the film, and that's when Hugh Jackman and his Aboriginal friend enter the ruined pub. That was absolutely excellent. Too bad the rest of the film couldn't live up to that in the slightest.
Why didn't somebody warn me1/10
Had no idea going in except the few bits of trailers I saw. Was expecting an epic thriller with a solid story line - instead... you get all the old stock, trite Australian perceptions.

- sage old Aboriginal grandfather who can listen to the birds sing and tell you when the second coming of Christ will be.

- the painfully cute, half breed boy that can outsmart NASA scientists. - the knock-down, drag-out Aussie bar brawls where everyone emerges 24 hours later as good as new without a scratch after getting smacked 10 times with a cricket bat and beer bottles.

- the jalopy that can carry 10 tons of supplies across 500 miles of blazing desolation without a backfire.

- the old lush that spews pearls of wisdom after falling off every bar stool he sits on.

- the proper English royal dame that can out-ride, out-fight, out-last any grizzled outback veteran.

- the kangaroos that appear out of nowhere in what looks like the middle of the Sahara Desert, and get shot for a delicious high-protein dinner.

- and of course, the chatter about stealing half-breed babies to make them more refined.

I thought this was a comedy 10 minutes in! Maybe it was. I couldn't bear to see the last half. I was ready to tie a cinder block around my neck and jump in the billabong......