The Age’s Jim Schembri thinks it lovely but a bit too long, writing:
IN WHAT has to be the most hyped and self-consciously local film since 1984’s The Man From Snowy River, the anxiously anticipated Australia is not a bad film. But it’s far from a great one, and certainly not one destined to be a classic.
That’s not to say it won’t be popular, possibly wildly so. The film has broad appeal, particularly to the chick-flick market, with its sweeping, overlong melodramatic saga about cattle drives, the stolen generations, the bombing of Darwin and Hugh Jackman’s abs. The story involves a prissy English woman (Nicole Kidman) who, with the help of a stockman known enigmatically as “The Drover” (Jackman), tries saving her troubled cattle station from a greedy cattleman (Bryan Brown) and his evil relative (David Wenham).
Blended into the tale is the touching story of a little boy of mixed blood, who serves as a symbol for the stolen generations and racism.
The film is fine, and never boring but, boy, is it overlong. At a mammoth 165 minutes it feels too much like a work-in-progress. There is a lot of narrative flab and longueurs in the first two hours and the film often has the pace of a steamroller with engine trouble.
Meanwhile, this review is the flipside, suggesting a winner waiting to spring, “HE SET himself an enormous challenge, but Baz Luhrmann has pulled off an incredible film in Australia.”