Saturday, January 03, 2009

"Australia" (2008) - Movie Review

“Australia” is a celebration for director Baz Luhrmann both cinematically and in a particular feel of belonging nationally. The cinematic part is a homage to the romance epics taken in those earlier times of Hollywood. Whether recreating those in a modern effects and possibly shined dialogues worked is a different thing but “Australia” is neither a great epic as it proclaims to be nor a over dramatized show of romance and melodrama. It simply plays grand and still runs on low profile. The sets, costumes and location glitter the budget but the film itself is a cautious approach.

In the late 30s at the edge of the war about to hiting the place, an English Woman Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) arrives in order to meet her husband who is there maintaining their cattle property. As the hunk of the year, Hugh Jackman is Drover a man for hire to do cattle management comes along to pick her up. With her English attitude, Ashley has regular tussle of high class with the field man Jackman. She is invited by the sad demise of her husband. She is said that he was killed by an aboriginal King George (David Gulpilil) by the dubious and suspicious Neil Fletcher (David Wenham). In turn of events it is learnt that in ending the cattle business for Ashley, Fletcher would be aiding the competitor Carney (Bryan Brown). By this time you can also understand who actually killed Ashley’s husband.

The film runs the underlining brutality slain on the half caste kids born for a White man and an aboriginal woman. Till 1973 the children were separated from their parents to be raised in a Christian atmosphere in order to diminish the bloods of aboriginals in the future generation. A film covering those made based on a true story was beautifully presented in “Rabbit Proof Fence” wherein three kids escape from the missionary school and track back to their home.

Fletcher has planted his seed and in the farm is the kid Nullah (Brandon Walters) whose grandfather is a nomad aboriginal King George. Nullah begins to like Ashley and the bond develops through the hard man ship they go through to herd the cattle to the Northern Territory to keep the farm running and stay in business. That marks the first part of the film which has some spectacular stunts and known results of the ordeal. Ashley and Drover fall in love to no one’s surprise.

Luhrmann’s film can be watched through in a good guessing game. While the end of the cattle journey appeared to be one film of its own, knowing the time period of it I knew it is going to run for another hour. I would not crib on that but it felt like a stretch. A stretch in the sense of me writing a review and the obsessiveness to have one and half page of content. You think and think and want to extend it and the final product would be a meager satisfaction for the inner self deceiving the conviction of the content. I do it now and then and some time it works. In the deception sometimes gives birth to material I almost forgot. “Australia” could have made it without the whole war and the rescue of the kid sent to the Mission Island in this extension.

Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are rightly matched. Jackman as the figure of representation of being that Australian Outback man is uncanny on his physicality, body language and the attitude as such of that hero from the classics. We need no exemplified scenes to ensure that we believe in it. But he appears to us fist fighting and that is an overstatement for his character.

The 166 minutes film is of great production value using every penny of it till the final scene. The visuals are worth the watch for the film despite its flaws. The title kind of misleads you in expecting to see the long history of the country. Yes it has the history of the aboriginals and their chants and magics, but those are used as plot pushers. It suits the circumstances though. I would still prefer the impressive “Rabbit Proof Fence” if it comes down to watch for the beautiful land. I would not want to discourage people in watching this on theatre. With the apt cinematic elements it does not bore you and the sight of the country is great to tolerate the over abundance of mundane predictability.

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