Stories Of Nerdy Adventures (Now With 100% More Cetaceans)
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I saw Australia today (the movie, not the country). Despite lukewarm reviews by critics, I decided to go see it anyway because my friend Beachgirl liked it a lot (I trust friends more than I trust movie critics), and the trailer captured my interest with majestic landscapes and the clever allusion to The Wizard Of Oz. The movie is set during World War II, just as the Japanese are about to attack the town of Darwin. There is a love story, cattle, a charming half-aborigine boy, evil ranchers, Japanese bombers, and Hugh Jackman generally being badass throughout. Baz Luhrmann has attempted to create a grand epic, and for the most part, he does deliver. Spoilers follow, so be warned.
Lady Sarah Ashley (played by Nicole Kidman) is an Englishwoman who travels to Australia to find her husband, who owns a cattle station down under called Faraway Downs. When she arrives she finds her husband murdered, and she is stuck with the station which she tries to sell. However, she meets an adorable half-aborigine, half-white boy named Nullah who befriends her. Nullah's mother is an aborigine woman and his father is Fletcher (played by David Wenham), a jerk who works on Sarah's farm as a manager. After she finds he has been helping a rival cattle farmer steal cows from her (and his mistreatment of Nullah and his mother), an outraged Sarah fires Fletcher and decides to run the station herself.
Sarah enlists an independent cattle drover (played by Hugh Jackman), who simply calls himself "Drover", to help her drive the cattle to Darwin to be sold to the military for food. Sarah, Drover, Nullah, and a few other hands drive the cattle across a very scenic country, despite being hampered by a vengeful Fletcher throughout the journey. Sarah and Drover fall for each other after the cattle drive, and she lives at Faraway Downs with Drover and Nullah.
Nullah is kidnapped one day by the authorities during his coming-of-age "walkabout", and is forced to go live on a church mission on an island. This happened a lot to half-aborigine children back in the day, where they were forcibly removed from their families and made to live in missions. They are referred to as the "stolen generation". Anyway. an upset Sarah tries to get Nullah back, without any success. And then, the Japanese attack. The mission is hit first, and then Darwin. Amidst the chaos of the bombing, Drover goes out to sea to rescue Nullah. He succeeds, and brings Nullah home to a tearful reunion with Sarah.
The film gives us some very stunning shots of the Australian continent. It's a beautiful place and Baz Luhrmann's visuals do it justice. His story structure however, feels a bit odd. The first part of the movie is about the cattle drive, and the second part is about Nullah's capture, rescue and the attack on Darwin. This makes the film feel like two movies tacked together in the middle, and it doesn't flow quite smoothly for me. There is quite a bit of melodrama, and the villain is rather cliched in his one-dimensional portrayal. Despite all this, it doesn't fail to entertain, and even though it's very long it never gets boring. It's one of the better movies of the year, and it's a shame it didn't get more favourable reviews. Go see it if you get the chance.