An epic action drama that plays better on the small screen, if only because we can stop it at the midway point and go to the bathroom.
Hugh Jackman delivers the goods as a cattle Drover in the Australian Outback. Baz Luhrmann brings a proficient and artful eye to this exciting old school Hollywood throwback. It's well paced, and quite original in its storytelling techniques. And it's certainly beautiful to stare at.
The runtime is a little too long for traditional tastes. Nicole Kidman tends to be a little stiff as Jackman's love interest. And the special features are quite lame. Just a handful of deleted scenes, and no two-disc special edition? What's up with that?
Australia is a grand, sweeping epic about cattle, lust, and finding true love in the worst of circ*mstances. It is a unique throwback to our golden age of cinema, and comes as quite the undertaking by Baz Luhrmann. While not a musical, it still upholds Baz's affinity for marrying righteous tunes to highly stylized imagery. It is chalk full of adventure and romance. The kid at the forefront of the story is far from annoying. The landscapes and sunsets are breathtaking. And Nicole Kidman turns in her best performance since last working with Baz in Moulin Rouge. But that's not saying much. The actress is still a little stiff here, especially in her more romantic scenes opposite Hugh Jackman. Australia owes its weight in charm to past films such as Ben Her, Laurence of Arabia, and Gone with the Wind. It's a marathon of fast moving action sequences, and it never slows down. It is sewn tight with romantic overtures, and pulls in aspects of a family drama along the way. Don't let its overbearing runtime scare you off. Now with the film on DVD, you can pause it at the halfway point, and treat it like two films, which it essentially is. The first half focuses on Nicole Kidman and her plight to save her dead husband's ranch by herding a hundred head of cattle across the Outback. The second half of the film is a World War II adventure that finds Jackman's Drover trying to save the orphaned Aborigine that he's adopted as they are attacked by the Japanese. It's a lot of fun, and you will definitely want to own it.
All we get are two deleted scenes. The first is titled, "What about the Drive?" Hugh Jackman confronts Nicole Kidman soon after her husband dies, convincing her that she should move the cattle. The second one is titled, "Angry staff serve dinner", and it features Kidman eating a meal her upset cooks have prepared for her. Nether scene is that memorable, or even worth checking out. You can skip them.
The film is gorgeous. It is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ration. In color. The film runs for two hours and forty-five minutes.
The film is presented in English, French, and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Surround, with both English and Spanish subtitles.
Here's a rare change. The cover ditches the original theatrical 1-sheet for a more aesthetically pleasing image of Hugh Jackman and Nullah walking out of the sunset. There are plenty of jet fighters in the sky. Jackman looks like he is going to kick some serious ass with a shotgun in his hand. The cattle rage in the background. And looming above the title is Kidman and Jackman in a loving embrace. It tells us everything we need to know about the film, except for how long it really is. The back cover offers up two different images of its stars, both running with their teeth barred. Bombs are going off in the background. Its like some action packed romance novel. It certainly lets us in on the premise. This is not going to be a boring endeavor. That's for sure.
THE FINAL WORD
Australia is a cinema lover's dream come true. Its everything you could want in a modern day epic and more. It's unique, yet tried and true nature beckons you into its folds, and Baz Luhrmann's own personal manic energy has found a nice home here at Faraway Downs. Though, you may want to hold off on buying it until a more expansive two-disc edition is released.