★★★ / ★★★★
“Australia” focuses on the adventures among an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman), a drover (Hugh Jackman) and a half-white/half-Aborigine (Brandon Walters) before and during World War II. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (“Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge!”), this epic tale is visually astonishing despite some flaws that keep it from becoming a great motion picture. I prefer the first half a bit more than the second half because it’s not afraid to be silly yet it can be so suspenseful to the point where I found myself squirming in my seat, desperately hoping that things will turn out well for the characters in danger. The second half is more about the romance between the elegant Kidman and the rugged Jackman. Although I did enjoy watching their chemistry build the more they interact with each other, there were some parts that I wish would’ve been omitted because it got redundant. I also liked scenes when the Japanese dropped the bombs because, from that moment on, I didn’t know which direction it was going to take. Despite the pandemonium being portrayed on screen, it didn’t become a war movie but instead highlighted the human aspect of the story. I divide the film into two halves because they felt so different compared to each other. I did enjoy both but the second half is a bit weaker than the first. When I look at this film as a whole, I can honestly say that it’s been quite a journey because of how much the characters have changed, especially Kidman’s. In the first few scenes she reminded me of a cold porcelain doll but by the end, I felt like she was a genuinely nurturing mother. I also liked the fact that the issue of racial relations were explored in multiple dimensions. Not for a second did I feel that it was heavy-handed or too syrupy. I read a review that the magical aspects of the film dragged it down considerably. I completely disagree because the belief in magic is embedded in the Aboriginal culture. I think it works here–if not literally then symbolically. I also enjoyed the constant allusion to “The Wizard of Oz.” Both share similar themes such as going on an actual journey that parallels an emotional journey. I was pleasantly surprised with this film because of all the mediocre reviews it received. There really are a plethora of things to see here such as the wildly entertaining stampede scene. Definitely check this one out if you’re remotely curious or enjoy epic movies.