“Epic” is the only word to describe a film like Australia. Clocking in at two hours and 40 minutes, the directing skill of Baz Luhrmann ensures that if you have to sit through a lengthy movie, it will at the very least be a beautiful one. After all, this is the same Baz Luhrmann who brought you 2001’s Moulin Rogue!, a glitzy musical with elaborate costumes and sets to match.
While Australia revolves around a completely different plot, it shares quite a number of similarities with Moulin Rogue!. For one, leading lady Nicole Kidman stars as English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley who makes her way to Australia in a bid to persuade her husband to sell his cattle station.
However, misfortune leaves her a widow and she takes on her late husband’s unfinished business. Such is the premise of Australia, a winding tale of an arduous journey earnestly narrated by an Aboriginal boy, Nullah (Brandon Walters) whom Sarah encounters.
She also enlists the help of an enigmatic cattle drover, known to all as The Drover (Hugh Jackman) as they race against time to herd the cattle to the city of Darwin to protect the cattle station from the villainous cattle station manager, Neil Fletcher (David Wenham).
This is merely the beginning as Luhrmann, who wrote the story and screenplay, packs in event after event. All of these ultimately serve as a backdrop to the blossoming romance between Lady Sarah and The Drover and the story of the Stolen Generation, Australian Aboriginal children who were taken from their families by the government and regarded as outcasts.
There is a lot to digest here and to add to the weight, Luhrmann sets the film during World War II. You can expect an endless barrage of deaths and tragedies in Australia but it is presented to you beautifully as Luhrmann does not scrimp on the aesthetics and ultimately devotes more effort to it than he does with plot or character development.
The landscapes are breathtaking and the camerawork gives you a visual feast.
Like with Moulin Rogue!, music is a key element to the plot as “Somewhere Along The Rainbow” is featured and interpreted in different ways, be it Nullah playing it on a harmonica or Lady Sarah’s rendition.
While there are not many complex twists and turns in Australia’s plot, you are likely to feel winded by the time you reach the ending where all the characters’ lives have been irrefutably ravaged by war. But for all its beauty, Australia does not leave a lasting impression because of its forgettable characters. The film ends up being nothing more than a pretty postcard with a sincere message that warms your heart for only two hours and 40 minutes but does not really convey any strong message like a great epic would.