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  • 12A
  • Adventure, Drama
  • 2008
  • 165 mins




Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman star in Baz Luhrmann's epic tale of adventure, romance, war and racial reconciliation Down Under

Critic's Review

Director Baz Luhrmann rose to prominence with the 'Red Curtain Trilogy' - Strictly Ballroom (1992), William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge! (2001) - all colourful, defiantly cheesy pastiches where genre was a mere plaything and almost anything went. Australia is the first since this acclaimed trilogy, a patriotic epic that pleads for reconciliation between the country's indigenous and alien populations.

It is 1939, and childless Lady Sarah Ashton (Nicole Kidman) heads from the gentility of her English estate to the wilds of Australia's Northern Territory, hoping to secure the return of her husband by selling off the ranch that has been keeping him Down Under for so long. In fact Lord Ashton has been speared in the back shortly before she arrives, and Sarah soon finds herself embroiled in a vicious land struggle with cattle baron King Carney (Bryan Brown) and his ruthless station manager Neil Fletcher (David Wenham).

Fortunately she has help from the rough-edged Drover (Hugh Jackman), a local mixed-race boy named Nullah (excellent newcomer Brandon Walters) and a small team of loyal employees, who must all race across the desert to Darwin to break Carney's monopoly on the armed forces' meat supply.

Soon Sarah, Drover and the recently orphaned Nullah have formed a loving, if not quite legitimate, family unit, but there are further troubles brooding on the endless horizon. Sarah struggles to cope with both boys' desire to go walkabout. There is the constant threat that Nullah will be taken off to a Christian mission (to be 'dislocated' from his 'full-black aborigine'), and with World War II now in full swing, the Japanese air force is about to bomb Darwin. Still, in this wide brown land, there can always be hope for change.

Australia is a fantastic spectacle, using the country's vast and varied outback terrains as a natural (or occasionally CG-tweaked) canvas on which to set the different characters' emotional journeys. And if that is not grand enough, Luhrmann also paints his film with a whole palette of genres: there is the sweeping romance of Gone With The Wind and The African Queen, the nostalgic fantasy of The Wizard Of Oz, the warfilm melodrama of Pearl Harbor, the mythic aboriginal mysticism of Ten Canoes (or Crocodile Dundee), and the cattle-driving adventure of countless westerns (complete with a band of seven riders and an evil rancher).

By Anton Bietel

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Essie Davis, David Wenham, Jack Thompson, Nicole Kidman, Bryan Brown, David Ngoombujarra, Hugh Jackman, Brandon Walters, Bruce Spence, Kerry Walker, Ben Mendelsohn, David Gulpilil
  • Director: Baz Luhrmann
  • Screen Writer: Richard Flanagan, Stuart Beattie, Baz Luhrmann, Ronald Harwood
  • Writer (Story): Baz Luhrmann
  • Producer: Catherine Knapman, Baz Luhrmann, G Mac Brown
  • Photographer: Mandy Walker
  • Composer: David Hirschfelder

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