Australian director Baz Luhrmann seems to be trying to recreate the sprawling, glamorous blockbuster movies of the 1940s and 1950s. I think he does a pretty good job of capturing both the good and bad points. This is a long movie that starts out much like a John Ford western, then turns into something more like a wartime romance.
Australia involves an English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) who comes to Australia just before the outbreak of World War II to round up her husband, who has been playing at being a cattle rancher. She intends to sell the place and drag him home. But it turns out that her husband has been murdered, the overseer is a crook, and the only potential buyer for the place is your standard-issue Evil Cattle Baron.
After thinking it over she decides to save the ranch by driving a herd of cattle across the badlands to Darwin to sell to the army. She will have to rely on the assistance of an Aboriginal boy and an uncouth and cynical, but ruggedly handsome cowboy (Hugh Jackman).
As I said, this has many of the same weaknesses of the films that inspired it. It’s long, hokey, sentimental and implausible. Also the attempts at political correctness may make it embarrassing for people a few decades from now to watch. (The difference between “respectful” and “patronizing” can be subtle and is not always immediately apparent.)
Nevertheless it’s beautiful to look at, and if you are able to just get into the spirit of things and sit back and enjoy it, it’s a ripping good story.