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Australia

It seems whenever someone desires artistic maturity they feel they must deliver a ‘message’.  Sprinkling some social commentary into their well worn formula, fingers are crossed in the hope their work will be taken seriously.  After directing three visual extravaganzas more suited to the MTV generation, Baz Luhrmann uses his birthplace as a beacon for his first foray into more adult film-making.  What transpires is another wondrous spectacle in his traditional manner with a story-telling style still in its infancy.
Forced to manage a cattle station owned by her late husband, British aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) feels out of her depth.  Appalled at the ramshackle flea-pit in her charge, she aims to make things work much to the merriment of the Drover (Hugh Jackman).  With a glint in his eye, the laconic drover joins her fight with dodgy land-owners keen to exploit the land’s rich bounty. As they find common ground, their bond is further sealed with the presence of Nullah (Brandon Walters) an aboriginal boy using his dreams in fighting against the many tribulations to come.
Saturated with enough fanfare to sink a fleet, Australia’s shortcomings are equally balanced by its many pluses.  Primarily about solidarity and resilience against a harsh environment, it also delves into the impact of colonialism. Using the stolen generation to spin his fictional tale, Luhrmann awkwardly attempts to find his own voice in this very Americanised version of early antipodean life.  Whilst the idea is sound and the use of great Aboriginal actors is commendable, the juxtaposing of his usual larrikin style and topical drama doesn’t quite work.  The main problem is the thinly drawn characters while suitable in the film’s frothy first half, aren’t strong enough to cope with its serious second act.
What it lacks in genuine story sense, the film gains in its extraordinary scenery.  The natural landscape provides a wonderful diversion from the plot’s antiquated clichés, with its beauty and danger shown to great effect.  The unnecessary use of CGI in certain sequences detracts somewhat, where the everyday surrounds easily beats anything a humble pc can muster.  Ably assisted by almost every Aussie thespian still standing, the actors clearly have a grand time in the earlier comedic scenes neatly capturing the country’s unique sense of humour.  The superb cinematography comes to the fore during the cattle run sequences, conjuring imagery a tourist ad could only dream of creating. 
More akin to 1997’s Titanic in tone and intent, Australia at least bravely charts the waters of parochial jingoism with some esteem.  Epic in a way local films rarely are, its lofty ambitions unfortunately become devalued by a simplistic script.  Despite its facsimile of other movie moments, Australia has enough of its own cinematic swagger to hold the attention over its considerable length.
Rating out of 10:  6

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