Australia - DVD Review

'there is greater praise to be given here than simply saying Luhrmann tried his best'

Almost exactly one year late (Australia came out on Boxing Day 2008 here) I finally managed to get round to seeing Baz Luhrmann's antipodean epic over the weekend. Popular opinion, by which I mean that carried by a variety of blogs I follow, seemed very much to be split; Black Sheep Reviews didn't really like it, Fletch at Blog Cabins could see where it was going but had similar problems with it whilst The Mad Hatter managed to get some positives out of it. For my part sure, I could see its problems but above all else whilst watching Australia, I found I was really enjoying it.

That feeling came about an hour and a half into the film having endured one of the worst opening twenty to thirty minutes of a film I think I've ever seen. I do subscribe to the fact that although Luhrmann might not be visionary, he is at least visually exciting but in the same vane he is often too eager to move us on to the next exciting thing. In the opening half hour Luhrmann is desperate for us to see Faraway Downs and Darwin and Lady Ashley's (Nicole Kidman) massive mansion and a horse jumping over a fence and some cattle ranching and some dude with a spear in his chest and... too much more. It is quick, jumpy, confusing and mangled and I found myself anticipating a disaster on a The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman scale.

Luckily that disaster didn't arrive and one major reason for that was Nicole Kidman. I really enjoyed her performance and for me I think it deserves to be up there with last year's best. I thoroughly believed in her character and the changes she went through during the film. More than believe actually: I was invested in them. Whenever Kidman was on screen she had my full attention and by and large I would go pretty close to calling it a faultless performance. For me, a major part of why I enjoyed Australia was down to Kidman's Lady Ashley.

Kidman is ably supported by, amongst others, Huge Action and David Wenham, the latter doing a nice line in cliched evil-doers. He's not the only cliche or familiar trope in Australia and for those looking there are plenty of them. The central romance, for example, follows a well-established arc as does the battle between our two central protagonists and Wenham's sneering rancher. There isn't much originality in terms of plotting here but, at the end of the day, it's a well-done, excellently produced epic: how much originality were you expecting?

There are other faults that some might not be able to overlook (the CGI is often horrible and completely un-needed - was the film really made better by the slo-mo fake shots of Hugh on a horse?) but Australia basically does what it says on the tin and largely does it extremely well. A lot of reviewers gave it top marks for effort but I think it deserves more than that - it is a good film in its own right and despite the errors, there is greater praise to be given here than simply saying Luhrmann tried his best.


  1. I reviewed this way back in the RT days, and all I can really say is its one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you strip it down moment by moment it's not that effective but as an entirety it all adds up to something well worth watching. The opening was definitely weak, and when viewed in the grand scheme of things rather unnecessary.

  2. Wow...kinda honoured that you dug back into my 2008 posts to see what I thought of it! I haven't watched it since then, but stand by my original assessment that it has a lot to offer...and thinking back on that cattle drive scene still gives me goosebumps.

    Good review!

  3. Definitely! I'll always have a look at old reviews to see what people thought of what I've just watched, just the type of thing to start a bit of interesting debate!

  4. I love this film, glad to see someone else does as well, since it pretty much bombed in the theater. It will definitely make my Top Ten for 2008 whenever I get around to making one.