Diected by Baz Luhrmann

Written by Mr. Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan

Starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman



Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" is the most excruciating two and a half hours I can recall sitting through. To say it's riddled with clichés is being too kind; it is one long, very long cliché itself. I tried to amuse myself by seeing how far in advance I could predict the next plot event; when I had it up to forty-five minutes I just gave up and suffered in silence.

"Australia" begins in 1939, when Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) comes to the Northern Territory to meet her husband, who has a cattle ranch called Faraway Downs, only to find - oh, you're ahead of me already - that he's been, yes, murdered. Supposedly by an aboriginal, King George (David Gulpilil who was the child in "Walkabout"). Do we know that he didn't do it but that it was done by the white rival Neil Fletcher (David Wenham) who might as well be called Snidely Whipsnade. Snidely - I mean Neil - wants to take over Faraway Downs, which means - I am not making this up - that he will marry Lady Sarah. Fat chance.

Meanwhile she falls for the Drover (Hugh Jackman) who can ride like the wind but won't be tied down. And there's a half-caste boy named Nullah whom the authorities want to take away to be brought up with Christian values. Believe me, there's a lot more going on at Faraway Downs - and who thought that name up? - than you might think.

Then the Australian army puts out a request for many cattle to feed the troops, and so the Drover and the Lady set out to drive 1,500 head of cattle all the way to Darwin. Will Snidely - I mean Neil - try to stop them by poisoning the wells and drinking holes? Will King George find a way to get them through? Will the Japanese bomb Darwin and capture the island where Nullah has been taken? Will the Drover find a way to rescue the boys? Will justice be done to Neil by King George? Will Lady Ashley and the Drover get it on? Will Nullah and King George go on Nullah's walkabout as the film ends? My lips are sealed.