- Released Internationally on 26/11/08
- Released in Malta by KRS on 25/12/08
In a nutshell
Set during World War II, this film is unashamedly epic in scope, and hopes to be the biggest thing ever produced down under. It’s a stirring love story between a British aristocrat who inherits a large tract of land in Australia, and one of the men who helps her move the cattle across the country to avoid the bombing of Darwin (the city) during the war.
Who’s in it?
Nicole Kidman is Lady Sarah Ashley, and with a name like that you can probably imagine what she talks and walks like, and what she likes to drink in the afternoon. The rough cattle-hand whom she meets down under is played by Hugh Jackman, who like Kidman is also an ozzie, as is the rest of the cast. David Wenham (300, Faramir in The Lord of the Rings) plays the excessively slimy Neil Fletcher, who isn’t too pleased with Ashley taking over the ranch. The film is directed by the amazingly talented Baz Luhrmann, who last graced the big screen with probably the most spectacular film of the century so far – Moulin Rouge!
Why we’re hyped
Luhrmann has a short, but stunning filmography, and besides Moulin Rouge! has also directed Romeo + Juliet and Strictly Ballroom in the 90s. Since then, he staged a successful version of La Bohème on Broadway, and set about researching Australian history to see when best to set his next epic project. He claims to have made the film as grand and moving as such classics as Gone with the Wind and Out of Africa, which might sound pretentious, but is still mouth-watering. It’s highly unlikely that this film can live up to the massive hype it has generated (also courtesy of Oprah), but anything by Luhrmann should still be, at very least, a feast for the senses.
Out of Australia
Our epic journey begins with the arrival of prim and proper Lady Ashley in rough and ruthless Australia, where the dry season is a killer and the beef trading business is not exactly well done. As she arrives with all her spotless luggage and slowly starts to realise how much adjusting she’ll need, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a remake of Sydney Pollack’s gorgeous Out of Africa from over 20 years ago. As mentioned above, Baz Luhrmann drew some inspiration from the award-winning safari-fest, and the early similarities are remarkable. Thankfully, the plot soon veers off in a totally different direction, and the only resemblances remaining are the wonderful vistas of the titular countries, and the unconventional love story between two very different people.
The Wizard of Oz
Australia’s very own Baz Luhrmann is evidently still in top form. From the outset, he waltzes through the introductions using some of the playful editing and imagery he put to such good use in Moulin Rouge!, and once again every scene is a beautiful spectacle of colour. A simple early shot of a horse rising out of a billabong (small lake) is exquisite, and helps remind us that this is no run-of-the-mill director, but one who has fashioned some of the most striking sequences in recent memory. This attention to detail persists throughout the entire film (and it’s a long one), and looks great on the big screen. The wartime-era views of Darwin port, both before and during the bombings, sometimes focus more on aesthetics than on realism, and this helps enhance the whole fairytale aspect of the film.
Rescuers Down Under
While the love story and heroic journey make for great storytelling, there comes a point where the plot seems to have thinned and burnt out too quickly. But any doubts are quickly blown away by the oncoming war, and by the film’s secondary plot about race, equality and the ‘stolen generations’ of aboriginal children, which comes to the fore. This is personified by the attention-grabbing performance of a twelve-year old debutante, Brandon Walters. He brings such life and charm to the character of the aboriginal child Nullah, that he is as pivotal to the film as the two main stars. His relationship with the star couple forms a moving trio that lifts the love story to heights it could never have achieved on its own. He gives a memorable face and voice to the aboriginal children who suffered during the past century, and who were first in line when the Japanese bombers flew down from Asia.
Adventure, fate, victory, love, war, salvation, justice. These are some of the main themes that have brought movies to life over the years, and which we watch again and again in different forms and with different protagonists. Baz Luhrmann has ambitiously weaved them all into his grand fairytale, and has managed to pull it off with panache. His love for cinema, showmanship and storytelling is evident in every scene, and he has managed to give us a good-old fashioned yarn to feel great about. This is what going to the movies is all about, and it’s the perfect Christmas film for story-lovers, whatever their age and whatever their tastes. A dazzling masterpiece.