2 hours, 45 minutes
PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.
DVD Features: Closed Caption; Deleted Scenes.
Sarah Ashley - Nicole Kidman
Drover - Hugh Jackman
Neil Fletcher - David Wenham
King Carney - Bryan Brown
Kipling Flynn - Jack Thompson
King George - David Gulpilil
Nullah - Brandon Walters
This epic drama is set in 1939, when the Australian
government decreed that they would forcibly remove any half-Aboriginal children from their
mothers, in a misguided attempt to assimilate them into white culture. Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) arrives in northern Australia in a huff. She's picked up and driven to Faraway Downs, a cattle ranch her wayward husband has purchased. She plans to drag him
back to England and sell the place, but finds him dead instead. Ranch hand Neil Fletcher (David Wenham) is soon revealed to be the killer, but Sarah soon falls under the spell of Nullah (Brandon Walters), a young half-Aboriginal boy hiding from the law on the ranch, and she begins getting attached to the place.
Sarah discovers that Fletcher has been siphoning cattle off and selling them to the neighboring beef baron King Carney (Bryan Brown). Impulsively she refuses to sell the ranch to Carney, but to compete with him and sell her cattle herself. This requires getting someone to drive the herd to the port city of Darwin. There's no one available except the man who picked her up when she first arrived, who's known only as the Drover (Hugh Jackman), an Australian equivalent of a cowboy. He rounds up a motley native crew and together they start on a brutal 1,500 mile journey across rough terrain. They endure a huge fire set by Carney's men which results in a gigantic stampede. But there are also some quiet campfire nights where romance begins under the stars. When they finally get the herd to Darwin they find that Carney's already made a deal to sell his cattle to the army. There's a lot of maneuvering that goes on in the port city including a high society ball and a
bombing attack by Japanese planes that had only a few months earlier attacked Pearl Harbor. And that is only half the story.
Nicole Kidman is fine as the uptight upper class Brit, but it is Hugh Jackman in his tight pants and frequently shirtless, riding horses, cracking whips and, in one scene, showering, who steals the show. The story seems most alive when the plot deals with Nullah's story, and had director Bazz Luhrmann ("Moulin Rouge") made the love story less important, Australia might have been a really extraordinary film, because whenever Nullah's on camera, the film soars. There's so much too like about this entertaining film, that it's hard to say it is somewhat disappointing, but ultimately, it is.