Let’s start this review giving credit to the two people that shot such a handsome film – director John Curran (The Painted Veil) and cinematographer Mandy Walker (Australia, Shattered Glass). So many gorgeous shots of the deserts of western Australian, and other times it felt like the dust was in your face.
This story first appeared in National Geographic before becoming the international hit book “Tracks.”
It’s the true story of Robyn Davidson, a 27-year-old who in the mid-70s, decides she wants to walk 1,700 miles in the Aussie desert, with a few camels and a pet dog. One of the pleasures I relished, was not ever finding out why she wanted to partake in such a journey. I have my guesses, as we see some flashbacks during her few disoriented moments and hallucinations.
Unlike the protagonist in Into the Wild, who didn’t quite prepare so well, Davidson spends a few years training camels. The work there also helped her acquire a few animals.
She meets Rick Smolan (Adam Driver, toned down on the wackiness to great effect). He’s a photographer for National Geographic, the magazine that ends up funding her trip. This means Smolan meets up with her periodically to snap photos (and attempts at winning her heart). Yet it’s not one of those coming-of-age love stories. This is like nothing I’ve seen before. It avoids a lot of the clichés it could’ve gone down. In fact, many might find the pacing slow. Yet when you do a film well, audiences can appreciate that, as they should here. I think Sean Penn could’ve employed some of the things done in this film and made Into the Wild a much better film.
Wait a second. Now a few cliché moments are coming to me. There’s that sleeping bag scene with a poisonous snake crawling across her body, and a couple other things you’ve seen before. Still – this movie was very well crafted, those few clichés aside.
Whether you’re glancing at a full moon, angry camels, or the white beard of an indigenous man that joints her briefly on the trek – this is visually stunning. Even the camels are cute.
It will be a crime if Mia Wasikowska isn’t nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Davidson. She made her a real person; a caring individual, who at times could be aloof. With such little dialogue, it didn’t make for the most compelling narrative, but who cares. Did I mention the amazing cinematography?
The score soars, and the film leaves a more inspirational feeling in you then the last sports movie that Hollwood released (When the Game Stands Tall).
There was a time Mia Wasikowska would’ve had to change her name to make it in Hollywood. There’s a time when a movie like this wouldn’t have been made, as studios wouldn’t have known how to market it. In fact, I’m not sure they are marketing this as well as they could.
Even the closing credits, with a decision to show the wonderful photographs Smolan shot, instead of a few paragraphs telling us that Davidson never married, or how she dated Salmon Rushdie in the ‘80s.
This movie has been out a few weeks and won’t be around much longer. I suggest you track it down, and make the trek to see Tracks.
It gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.