By CAINE GARDNER
In the day of the raging blockbuster and movies that fly past in nanoseconds, the word 'epic' is thrown around way too often. Anytime a movie has a good story, good acting and an extended run time, it is automatically dubbed an epic. Australia is Hollywood's latest attempt and it lives up to its billing.
Australia is a sweeping tale of love, loss and the perils of the Australia in the 1930s. The film explores the themes of what love truly is, the belief in a dream and a people's inability to let go.
The film opens with Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) making arrangements to travel from England to Australia to force her husband to sell their Australian cattle post Faraway Downs. She is greeted by Drover (Hugh Jackman) when she arrives and they take a slightly comical journey to Faraway Downs where they learn of the death of her husband.
With cattle baron Lesley "King" Carney's (Bryan Brown) land surrounding Faraway Downs and a less than generous off to sell, Lady Ashley convinces Drover and a rag tag team of cattle drivers to move 1,500 head of cattle to the city of Darwin for military sale.
Along the way, we are introduced to Nullah (Brandon Walters), an 11-year old half aborigine, half white child who welcomes Lady Ashley to the outback and gives her her first taste of the mysteries of Australia. The youth loses his mother, with Lady Ashley comforting the child by singing "Somewhere over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz.
Drover and the team leads the cattle to Darwin, but along the way finds that all the watering holes have been poisoned by Carney's right-hand man Neil Fletcher (David Wenham). The team must make the choice to take the safe passage or will they brave the Never Never, guided by Nullah's "magic man" grandfather's singing.
Song is an underlying theme throughout the film. The aborigines use songs to tell tales, for direction and a center. Nullah believes that Lady Ashley arrived because he sang her to him.
Later in the film, Nullah is arrested and sent to 'Mission Island', where all half aborigine, half white children, known as 'creamies,' are sent. These children became known as the 'Stolen Generation.'
After the bombing at Pearl Harbor, Darwin is attacked by the Japanese and first in the line of fire is Darwin's initial radio transmitter, located on 'Mission Island'. Now the Drover must secretly make is way to the island in an effort to find Nullah.
Director Baz Luhrmann delivers possibly one of the most beautiful movies of last year. His use of the contrasting landscape of Australia gives the viewer a real appreciation for the land down under. Luhrmann's screenplay, written with Stuart Beattie, weaves a story that is ambitious and almost as vast as Australia itself.
The only drawback for Australia is the film's length. The flick becomes a little lumbering in the middle, searching for direction, but once it finds its way, we are treated to a film whose outcome is completely satisfying.
Jackman and Kidman are wonderful together, with great chemistry and rapport. Jackman is destined to become a classic leading man, the likes of Grant or Bogart, with his easy-going style and classic leading man good looks.
The flick introduces Walters, but without him the film would have lacked the spirit which makes it something special. The viewer will find it easy to fall in love with Walters and, more times than not, he will almost move you to tears. This young actor is a treat to watch.
Final Cut: Australia harkens back to the epics of old Hollywood in almost every way. Jackman continues to impress every time he's on screen and in a rare instance, the film shines brighter than its stars. The next time you feel like escaping, take a trip to Down Under. The film is a worthy addition to your DVD collection.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brandon Walters, David Wenham, Bryan Brown
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Written: Baz Luhrman, Stuart Beattie
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, a scene of sensuality, and brief strong language.
Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray
* Deleted Scenes
1 stars - Stinks
2 stars -- Consider other plans
3 stars -- Take it or Leave it
4 stars -- Worth the Price of Admission
5 stars -- A Classic