Director: Baz Luhrmann
Accusing Baz Luhrmann of audacity is a bit like telling a shark it has very sharp teeth.
It’s the Aussie director’s stock in trade, wherein movie genres, legendary characters and time itself are bent to the whims of his fevered visions.
Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, is both more and less of the same. At once sprawling and intimate, melodramatic and comic, magnificent and utterly bonkers, it bears entertaining witness to Luhrmann’s love of his homeland.
With a bladder-testing running time of close to three hours, it’s also the first of his films to look as though it almost escaped his grasp, falling prey to some of its own excesses.
Not many directors would have the brass to marry a cattle-driving western with a World War II romance, with side trips to social commentary about cultural engineering and the symbolic significance of The Wizard of Oz.
Not many would want to, you might add. Characters fly across the screen, barely giving us time to know them, while a text intro confusingly speaks of Pearl Harbor in 1941 before settling upon the pre-war of summer 1939. We must also negotiate the voiceover narration of young Aboriginal lad Nullah, played by welcome newcomer Brandon Walters. By the time the Japanese aircraft are strafing Darwin in all their CGI glory, recreating an actual event in history, you may feel as if you’re under fire, too. But Luhrmann manages to keep it together by maintaining his focus on the heartbreaking story of Nullah.
There’s not much in the way of extras — a couple of deleted scenes, some featurettes on the Blu-ray.