|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Wednesday, 18 March 2009|
"Australia" takes place at the turn of World War II, from the standpoint of Australian cattle drivers and aborigines. In the early 1940s Australia is dealing with the assimilation of aboriginal children that are not considered to be black or white. They are called, "creamies." The creamy children are hunted and shipped off to mission island. Nullah is one such child. He resides at Faraway Downs, a cattle-raising farm out in the middle of nowhere in Australia.
Sarah Ahsley (Nicole Kidman) is an English aristocrat that travels to Australia to force her husband to sell Faraway Downs. However, when she arrives she finds that her husband has been murdered. Soon after, it is found that Fletcher (David Wenham) had been in cohorts with Carney, the owner of a competing cattle company looking to take over Faraway Downs.
Lady Ashley recruits the drover (Hugh Jackman) to round up the cattle that have scattered and help her wrangle them to Darwin, before Carney can take over. Of course, Fletcher is not going to make that easy. He impedes every bit of their progress, especially in a heart-stopping cliff sequence. Once the cattle arrive in Darwin, it is like the end of the film, but oh no, it continues.
No Lady Ashley wants the drover and Nullah to join her on Faraway Downs and live happily ever after. The three live in harmony for quite some time, before the drover starts to get irritated and restless. Nullah longs to join his grandfather on his walkabout. Meanwhile Fletcher is still persistent in acquiring Faraway Downs. When the drover leaves, Nullah leaves and is captured. Lady Ashley tries everything to keep him from being sent to Mission Island. Unfortunately she fails.
However, when Fletcher makes one final offer, Ashley accepts. Unfortunately, before the deal can go through Darwin and Mission Island are bombed by the Japanese, only shortly after they bombed Pearl Harbor. Some drama ensues, but it's all smiles in the end. There is just one little thing. I never want to hear, "I will sing you to me" ever again. It was said no less than 100 times in the film.
I was saddened by the fact that Nicole Kidman played an English lady and not an Australian. I really wanted to hear her speak with her natural Australian accent. It would have been to die for (no pun intended).
While the film may go on far too long, it has a wonderful image to marvel at. Blu-ray truly lets the Australian outback shine on screen. The journey from Faraway Downs to Darwin contains some of the most spectacular visual sequences. The rocks and sand contain texture and terrific colors. When the rain season hits, the lush vegetation pops from the screen. Black levels and shadow delineation are spot on. Contrast runs a bit hot, but when shooting in Australia's bright sun, there is not much you can due for brightness, without resorting to a grainy film stock. That said, the image is completing clean of dirt, dust, blemishes, etc. As expected there isn't a hint of edge enhancement or digital noise reduction. A limitation of analog and digital media colliding is that the CGI effects are rather easy to spot. However, this is not a problem with the transfer, simply enhanced by the wide spectrum of the Blu-ray format. This is a terrific visual display that shouldn't be missed.
The audio is a decent supplement to the stunning visual. Surround use is transparent. There are rarely discrete effects that pop up in the surround channels, despite the ample opportunities. Music and ambience is nicely bled into the rear channels. Dialogue is present for the most part. However, the thick accents make much of the dialogue unintelligible, especially when the dialogue drops to an extremely soft level. The LFE channel is nicely balanced in the mix. The dynamic range is wide, but sometimes dipping too low. The frequency range is expansive. Overall, a very good DTS-HD audio track.
There is not much in the way of special features on this disc, but they do briefly cover all the basics. First there are a couple deleted scenes. Hard to imagine anything was deleted from this film. Not much in the scenes, but could be interesting to some fans. The featurette, "Australia: The People, the History, the Location" is a horrible featurette that teases us, never providing any real valuable information. The rest of the special features are pushed together, covering each of the major aspects of the filmmaking process. The section includes: Photography, Production Design, Costume Design, Locations, Cinematography, Sound, Editing, Music and Visual Effects. Each section offers some interesting information, but overall fairly weak for such an extraordinary shooting location. Lastly, there is a theatrical trailer.
"Australia" is a long film, but there are parts that are differently worth it. The story is unique, especially as there are just not a lot of films taking place in Australia these days. The visual aspect of the Blu-ray is stunning, while the audio follows close behind it.