Australia (2008) was a better picture than I expected. Hugh Jackman is decently convincing as an Australian drover. Nicole Kidman is ok the first half of the film and much better the second half of the film. I think Kidman is one of those actresses that get better and keep looking good as they continue to protray characters that are of the same age they are. Australia is not the sweeping epic that all the trailers promote. It is really limited to northern part of the continent, a specific time period, and deals with specific content. The first part of the film is about a English noblewoman that comes to the outback to sell her husband's folly, a cattle ranch, and bring him home. She arrives to discover herself a widow and learns that in order to save her wealth she has to get her cattle to market. Hugh Jackson to the rescue. Predictably a motley crew of drovers made up of Aboriginal women, a child, a Chinese cook, an old drunk bookkeeper, the Drover (Jackson) and the English noblewoman get the cattle to market after predictable obstacles are overcome. I kept thinking of that old John Wayne movie Cowboys (1972) where he takes on a group of young boys, trains them to be cowboys, and then takes them on a cattle drive.
After the successful drove, life is good...for a while. WWII starts, the Drover goes off after Kidman's character challenges his independence, the half-breed Aboriginal child they care for is sent to a relocation orphanage, the evil guy continues to plague them, and the Japanese attack. It is very dramatic and at times melodramatic. But, that being said, the second half of the film is much better than the first.
The filming itself is usually very well done, but oddly at times a little cartoonish. Maybe those are the digitized sequences, I am not sure. The biggest disappointment is there is no Sam Neill! How can an Australian movie be made without Sam Neill? Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson make it into the picture, why not Sam Neill? Over all it is a good movie to borrow from the library and I am glad I didn't pay the big ticket bucks for it at the theatre.