Release Date: November 26th, 2009
Click here for the Australia Trailer.
Australia is the tale of love, adventure, loss, and drama that spans multiple genres of film into one big movie.
Nicole Kidman is Lady Sarah Ashley, a prim and proper noblewoman from England who travels to the "land down under" to convince her estranged husband, Lord Ashley, to sell his cattle ranch to a money hungry monopolizer named King Carney(Bryan Brown). But when Lady Ashley arrives to find her husband has been murdered, things take a drastic turn. A worker of Lord Ashley, named Fletcher(David Wenham, Lord of the Rings), whole heartedly tries to convince Lady Ashley to sell to King Carney, who Fletcher is secretly working for. Lady Ashley is ready and willing to sell when she witnesses Fletcher beating an aboriginal boy named Nullah. At the site of this cruelty towards Nullah because he is of mixed race, Lady Ashley decides to take her herd of cattle into Darwin to trade with the army in the beginning of World War II. Despite her admirable deed to do this, she can not do it alone so Lady Ashley enlists the help of lone cowboy and cattle driver Drover(Hugh Jackman, X-Men). Together, along with Drover's partners, Nullah, the Chinese cook, the house maid, and late Lord Ashley's drunken accountant, the group spans the treacherous badlands of the Australian Outback.
Being a big fan of Hugh Jackman and a decent fan of Nicole Kidman, I wish I could give this movie high praise and an exalted review but sadly I can't. Deciding where to begin with the negatives of this film is no small task, considering there are so many. My first and foremost problem was that of Nicole Kidman's acting. It was horrible. Overacting is an understatement in this scenario. When her character first reaches Australia is when it really starts to go downhill. From over-the-top monologues of jumping kangaroos to an extremely exaggerated scream when one is shot is just the beginning. Throughout the whole movie Kidman is consistently acting like she is performing in a children's play where the goal is to be silly and down right ridiculous at points to entertain a laugh from little kids. But Kidman isn't the only one. Nullah(Brandon Walters), the little mixed race aboriginal boy narrates the movie because the view of the film is mostly told through his eyes. Now, while narration in films is good sometimes, it really isn't in Australia. Nullah's narration was just kind of goofy. And, since the boy was Australian, he was sometimes impossible to understand. Now, Australians are hard to understand some times obviously, but Nullah's character seemed like a normal kid trying to force an Australian accent. Nullah was cute, however. A creamy colored child with a bright smile and wavy dirty-blonde hair made him hard to hate. But thank goodness not everybody was a terrible actor in this movie. The saviors of the cast reside in Hugh Jackman and David Wenham. Wenham plays the devious and ruthless Mr. Fletcher. Fletcher wants nothing more than to git rid of Lady Ashley and buy her land of Far Away Downs. Through Wendham's performance, you really get a sense of how truly evil this man is. It is almost chilling at times when you hear him speak. His oratory and deliverance of key lines is something to be admired. Hugh Jackman, as always, performed magnificently. Laying the rugged, "Outback Jack" character really fit the native Australian perfectly. He came with one of his best performances and made the movie tolerable.
But the poor acting wasn't the only downfall of this nearly three hour movie. The plot didn't flow together at all and really didn't make sense. The beginning of the movie started with words fading in and out about the mating of white men and aboriginal women to make the race whiter and "breed" the black out of them. It also talked about the mixed children that were taken and forced into the army and were known as the "lost generation". but the movie didn't really focus on this at all. It had two main points in the movie which felt like two entirely separate movies forced together. The movie also had four different genres that also didn't seem to mesh well. The beginning of the movie was trying to be a light-hearted comedy but came off as goofy and dumb. Then it switched scenes to a western type film as the characters attempted to drive a herd of cattle across the outback. This part of the movie wasn't so bad. The scenes in this part had a good chemistry between the actors, the all seemed fairly normal, and there was even some action when Mr. Fletcher attempted to scare the herd of cattle into running over the edge of a cliff. But after this part of the film, the cattle is moved into Darwin, and everybody seems to live happily ever after, which is good, if you wanted to end the movie there, which is exactly how it was shot. The feel of these scenes and the way they were arranged made it feel like the movie was coming to an end when in reality, the movie was only about half over. Next the film switched genres once again to a sort of love story between Jackman and Kidman falling in love and Nullah become their some what unofficial son. This section of the movie, gratefully was short. But, as luck would have it, there is yet another part of the story! After the brief love story comes the climatic World War II dram section of the film. The only part connecting this part of the film to the rest was the brief occurrences where the war was mentioned. This part is the other god part of the movie which is weird. It's like the movie is split into fourths and every other section was good. The movie kind of went bad, good, bad, good. The war sequence was the most dramatic. It started with Mr. Fletcher becoming the head of King Carney's meat monopoly after Carney met with an unfortunate "accident". Then Nullah is taken from Lady Ashley and sent to an Island with a catholic mission, and to top it all off, the Japanese bomb the hell out of the whole place. Everything looks grim, Nullah is thought to be dead, Lady Ashley is thought to be dead, and Drover is out herding cattle and has to come home to the destruction. There was also the part of Nullah's grandfather known as King George. His role made little sense. He was framed for the murder of Lord Ashley and just kind of hung around in the background making little appearances hear and there. His character somewhat felt out of place.
I don't know what the director was thinking but the movie just didn't flow. It really did feel like it was two movies crammed together. Personally I think this movie would have done better if it was released as two individual movies, splitting after the herd was delivered. But puting it together just did not work. This, coupled with less than stellar acting from some, and an all around seamlessly pointless plot made for a drag of a movie that is good for one watch through at most, but the 165 minuet run time is severely pushing it.
I give Australia 4 Down Under Cattle Herders out of 10
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