Australia is an attempt to make a sweeping epic not unlike some classic big screen movies of the past. On this point they partially succeeded. It takes place in front of a grand World War II backdrop, amongst the majesty of the Australian outback and with a well known pair of stars.
Hugh Jackman has a likeable screen presence as far as his action movie personas go. On that front Australia is no different and you will find yourself rooting for his reluctant hero to do the right thing. He has what it takes to pull off the action convincingly. I will admit I am not a big Nicole Kidman fan, most likely due to her choice of acting roles. That is a shame because she has a nice look and a charming voice. In this role she played a determined and strong-willed woman whose actions you will want to succeed. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy her performance.
Australia did a good job of keeping the character count reasonably low. However the streamlining gained by that was overshadowed by an unclear plot for the first 40% of the film. Who is in cahoots and who is conspiring against whom? It could have and should have been more clear.
That leads me to the most frustrating factor about Australia; there is not enough comeuppance for the bad guys. The movie is long, and the bad guys have the upper hand and the good guys suffer long and hard throughout. While the bad guys finally get theirs in the very end, it is important to give the viewer smaller victories along the way. Those smaller victories never happened and the viewer needed to cram an awful lot of catharsis into the final victory.
An interesting element in the film is native Australian mysticism. It is a welcome layer, however in a couple scenes they stretched credulity by going too far with it. Crocodile Dundee putting a single passive bull to sleep worked. A little untrained kid stopping an entire stampeding heard was way much. There is a time to stay more subtle.
The movie touched upon classic politically correct themes such as sexism and ethnic prejudice. Both have been done to death. Although welcome, do it right. They did okay with the sexism but hit the ethnic side a little hard. I am surprised at the level of vitriol some have for the forced education of Australian natives by the government at the time. Yet the same people take the opposite side to controlling policies by government today regarding school choice and vouchers. Just an observation.
The scenery was a pleasure to behold. On that front Australia delivers. It is a film that really marches to the beat of its own drum, or rather to the beat of a drum from a bygone age. While the movie is a little short in the satisfaction department throughout, the ending will leave you feeling hopeful. If you are looking for sweeping shots and not so sweeping plots give Australia a try.