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Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, Bryan Brown, David Wenham

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Screenplay: Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan

Cinematography: Mandy Walker

Original Score: David Hirschfelder

Running Time: 165 mins.

Strictly Ballroom, Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge, I think it’s safe to say that from this body of work no-one was expecting something low key and under-whelming from director Baz Luhrmann in delivering an epic sweeping romance set against the back drop of, you guessed it, Australia. The thing is, in truth Luhrmann tones down the flamboyance and visual style that marked out his past efforts to a level that is very befitting of a film of Australias epic nature, unlike past efforts Australia is set in a world we can imagine as ours yet it is shot through with an almost dream-like quality, something which makes it an absolutely stunning visual experience.

Scenes which some critics have critisized for an ‘obvious’ use of green screen I would argue are helped by this look, it is almost unreal and like I said dreamlike, but it is what makes a Baz Luhrmann film a Baz Luhrmann film, it’s his style and what makes him an auteur, one of the very best in Hollywood today. On making Australia Luhrmann made it clear he wanted to end up with a film harking back to the sweeping epics of post-war Hollywood, a Gone With The Wind or Sound of Music for the noughties, and while it will never be classed as anywhere near the masterpieces that those films are it would, if justice were served, be admired and enjoyed for the superior film it strives to be and comes a hairs breath from achieving.

Beginning with an absolute blinder of a scene we meet young Aboriginie Nullah and his grandfather ‘King George’, and the history of Australia’s ‘stolen generation’ is told through Nullah’s voice and seen through his eyes. For while the poster would have you believe this is love story with two major Hollywood stars, Jackman and Kidman, their’s is merely a sub-plot set against Nullah’s coming of age, and struggles at being a ‘half-cast or creamy’ as the ‘stolen generation’ children were called. Brandon Walters, Nullah, is a true revelation and it is his performance that makes the film, exuding likeability and childhood naivity without being cutesy and cringeworthy I can honestly say I would place it in my top perfeormances of 2008, giving the likes of Daniel Day Lewis and Javier Bardem a run for their money.

The only downside is that through the magnificence of Walter’s performance Kidman and Jackman do become overshadowed somewhat, where really they don’t deserve to be. Jackman is at his best here, heroic and charming without being a cliche never once resorting to firing his gun even in the close where the War finds its way to Oz. More surprisingly is how good Kidman is, never a big fan of her’s I really found myself warming to her initially frosty character and the way in which the romance is pursued is never less than believable, particularly when the requisite obstacles are overcome.

The only gripe I’d have to level is the slightly off pacing, given more time to craft the final edit I have no doubt we would have been watching a masterpiece, this combined with a couple of OTT hammy performances that wouldnt look out of place in a panto, David Wenham im looking at you! take the shine off, albeit only slightly, and lessened my love for this epic.

VERDICT

Sumptuous and epic in all the right ways, this is what cinemas were made for, but as good as Luhrmann and his stars are, it’s stolen from under them by an unknown, Brandon Walters Nulluh is the real find here and sparks life into Australia.  

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