Tracks Movie Review
The true story behind this movie just about makes up for its oddly flat tone, which never quite captures either the grandeur of the Australian Outback or the deeper emotions of the people on-screen. The acting is superb, but director John Curran (The Painted Veil) opts for a warm, slick style when something much spikier was called for.
It's the story of Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), a young woman who in 1975 decided to walk nearly 2,000 miles from Alice Springs to the western coast as a way of connecting with her explorer father, who vanished on a similar trek. She needs at least three camels to carry her supplies, so she spends nearly a year working for camel dealers (Rainer Bock and John Flaus) learning how to care for the animals and earning cash to buy them. She also gets sponsorship cash from National Geographic magazine, which sends photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) along to document the trip, which is a series of amazing encounters, beautiful landscapes and colourful local customs.
Wasikowska is superb as the plucky young woman who drops out of society to take on this mind-boggling challenge. In a nicely understated performance, she conveys Robyn's steely courage and tenacity, as well as her reluctance to accept the help she needs. The most inspiring aspect of the story is Robyn's ultimate observation: "I'd like to think an ordinary person is capable of anything." So it's a bit frustrating that Curran keeps trying to turn her into a movie heroine, complete with sun-drenched childhood flashbacks and a tetchy romance with the always-terrific Driver.
At least the film looks amazing, with a range of colours as Robyn crosses from red deserts to landscapes that are washed in shades of brown, white, green and blue. Although by focussing on the simplistic emotions, Curran never lets the film take off into the epic it so clearly should be. The film sharply captures elements of Aboriginal culture along the way, with lively characters and some thrilling adventures. But it never quite reveals either the vast scale of the land or the depth of Robyn's motivation.