- Reviewed by: LaRae Meadows
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Current Rating 8.92/10 | 37 Votes
Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) decides to leave England and go to Australia to meet with her husband about their cattle ranch, Far Away Downs. Her husband introduces her to Drover (Hugh Jackman), a cattle drover. On her ranch, she meets Nullah (Brandon Walters), a mixed race aboriginal child and his mother Daisy (Ursula Yovich). Australian cattle baron King Carney is doing everything he can to have a cattle monopoly.
The first half an hour of the movie is a cheeky World War II era action story beginning. Australia moves like a jive, lots of steps at a quick pace, playfully entertaining the audience with its speed and precision. It is sprinkled with unexpected moments of levity. Occasionally I worried it would go over the top, but Baz Luhrmann, the director, restrained it from becoming a slapstick comedy.
The light attitude of the first few minutes of Australia only lead the audience by the nose into a false sense of security. The story begins to get darker, the subject matter more intense, and starts to resonate more loudly. Anger, fear and frustration become real emotions the audience feels, even though they don’t understand what’s going on.
One thing that’s easy to understand is the romantic chemistry in Australia. When Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman get within three frames of each other, the audience can feel the heat. Their first kiss left me feeling like I had been kissed as deeply and passionately as Ashley. There is a scene that made all the women in the audience sit against the back of their seats with their mouths open, aghast at the beauty of Hugh Jackman.
Before the men refuse to see this on “chick flick” grounds, don’t worry. Men will have no problem enjoying the romance for men: cattle drives and war. Heck, there is even a bit of hunting, horseback riding and bar fighting.
Australia oozes visual style and smears it across the audience like warm lotion. The use of warm and cool lighting to express mood makes the audience sink deeply into the story. Almost every scene in Australia is enhanced by the careful attention to the way it looks. There are the occasional mishaps with the visual effects, especially the dead cow stand-in but they don’t take away from the overall splendor of Australia.
I knew nothing about Australia’s “Stolen Generations.” This nauseating chapter in Australian history, explained in detail in Australia, armed me with one more bullet in my arsenal against the Catholic Church. I always appreciate a movie that shows these religious groups for what they are: a criminal organization with no regard for the dignity of their flock, and they will do whatever the good people near them will allow them to get away with. This was not all the church’s doing but they are a willing participant in disgusting acts of racial cleansing. Not a shocker to anyone who knows anything about religion’s footprint on the world.
Australia tempts the heart to take a journey of pain and joy but rewards it with an experience that lasts far beyond the movie’s end.
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