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</script></div>{/googleAds}Infusing renewed vitality to the movie biz catchphrase â"shot on location," the smallest of the world's seven continents proves itself bigger than life in director Baz Luhrmann's (Moulin Rouge, 2001) epic revelry set in the titular ‘land of oz.' Movie stars proving to be at their top working Down Under, native Aussies Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, as well as Luhrmann, do go home again to tell the indigenous WWII tale. The uptight Sarah Ashley (Kidman) and the bloke's bloke Drover (Jackman) engage each other—and audiences—in a stubbornly-romantic two-step dead ringer for the The African Queen (1951) and Reds (1981). All share a narrative construct using an international historical backdrop as the impetus for presenting war as hell and an anti-cynical love as a many splendor thrill conquering all.

AustraliaThe year is 1939 and Lady Sarah Ashley, an aristocratic Englishwoman, is traveling to the Kangooland, with an air of superior disdain, to retrieve her adventurous cattleman husband from Faraway Downs, their 7.5 million acre ranch. Making our only acquaintance with Mr. Ashley we find, along with wifey, that he's dead—suspiciously so, compliments of a glass-tipped spear—and his demise is being blamed on indigenous Aborigines. Lady Ashley's not buying it. A cutthroat competitive Australian beef industry means nefarious cattle barons are lurking in the bush—King Carney (Bryan Brown), a forename rather than a title bestowed him, chief among them. This sunburnt soap opera embroils further by virtue of the fact that the Japanese empire intend to make the town of Darwin their next target following the attack of Pearl Harbor.

In the two year interlude between brawn and bombs, we've Lady Ashley adopting a little â"creme-colored" boy named Nullah (Brandon Walters)—following his ranch-hand mother's accidental drowning—a mixed-race Aborigine. His father's a white man named Fletcher (David Wenham), a dubiously ambitious wannabe cattle baron, aiming to take control of Faraway Downs by any means (read: spear) necessary. Lady Ashley's not selling it. As obstinate, demanding, and alienating as Katherine Hepburns' Rose Sayer in Queen, she'll drove the 1500 head of cattle to Darwin herself to sell to the army, without Fletcher's crew hands assisting, instead hiring the most legendary cattle drover in the Northern Territory—The Drover (Jackman)—to help her and a half-dozen or so loyal hands. Drover, like Queen's Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart), is a man with a mysteriously checkered past and a well laid unplanned future. No chance it'll stay that way.

Lady Ashley, with both her sun-blocking umbrella and always-adorned hat protecting her fair skin, rises to the adventurous occasion as she, the hardheaded Drover (â"I'm a drover. No man hires me. No man fires me."), Nullah, & Co. travel through heat, wind, dust storm, smoke, rain, and even the ominous Never-Never Land to dodge Carney's and Fletcher's sabotages in reaching Darwin. The outdoor locations are breathtakingly colorful and Kidman's and Jackman's native accents are flat out—on the move much of the time, a â"dirt road movie" if ever there was.

Cattle conveyed, characters and plot call it a day for what is a natural breaking point 90 minutes in to the story's 165. Try as she might, milady Ashley, to her dismay, can't domesticate Drover or the tribal descendant Nullah by settling down with her perfect posture, perfect hair, perfect wardrobe, perfect diction, etc. and living happily ever after on the ranch. Drover won't be dissuaded from setting out on a new six month long cattle drove and the â"stolen generations" Nullah, having been forced to live in white society due to his â"half-caste" race, on an irrepressible rite-of-passage walkabout with his aboriginal grandfather.

All three separated by circumstances, the last reel heats up with longing and some well-deserved carnage when the Japanese come dropping bombs. In a war-battered landscape man, woman, and child refuse the fate that would befall them, instead trying any way they can to make their way back to each other, wherever and however that is. The emotionally satisfying musical score rises and falls and rises again as a walloped Australia bears the fruit of renewed love for everyone.


Component Grades
Movie
DVD
3 Stars
1 Star
DVD Experience
2 stars

DVD

DVD Details:

Screen Formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 2.35:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: DTS 5.1 HD; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access deleted scenes.

Supplements:

    • No commentary track
    • None
  • Commentary
  • Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes - 2 scenes that didn't make the final cut, totalling less than 3 minutes.

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging

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