For a movie that involves trekking 2,000 miles across the harsh Australian Outback, John Curran’s “Tracks” plays things surprisingly safe. Based on a true story, the picture revolves around Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), a young Australian gal who finds herself fed up with life in the city and all the minute little problems that come with it. Most of all, she’s fed up with people; so along with her loyal black Lab and three camels she sets off on the barren, dangerous wilderness to find herself.
For being an inexperienced hiker, Robyn sure makes things look easy. Most of the time she seems so relaxed, with a slight smile on her face, looking like she’s in a state of Zen. While it’s great that she doesn’t spend the movie freaking out or panicking, I feel like she’s too nonchalant most of the time. Looking through my barely legible notes I took during my screening, I noticed I wrote and underlined the phrase: ”Where’s the danger?” Twice. Now, as I’m writing this review I’m still wondering, where’s the danger?
She gets a few sunburns, loses track of the camels for short period and has a few hallucinations but other than that her journey is relatively stress free. The only major dramatic thing that happens is she has to put one of her fury companions down. I realize that this incident most likely happened to the real Robyn but within a movie, the decision to kill off an animal companion is a cheap manipulative way to draw an emotional reaction out of the audience. And the fact that it’s the only thing we react emotionally to on screen during the movie makes it feel even more cheap and manipulative. The movie doesn’t earn this sad moment.
“Tracks” is beautifully photographed by Mandy Walker, containing a lot of gorgeous wide shots of the sunbaked Australian desert. I also learned some interesting facts about the continent; did you know that Australia has the largest feral camel population? I didn’t. But overall the movie is rather dull, when it should be gripping and exciting. Even worse, because it’s not gripping or exciting it’s not inspirational. By the end of the movie we’re supposed to feel happy that Robyn accomplished this major feat but Curran doesn’t make that “feat” look all that impressive.
Worst of all, while the movie purports to be about one woman’s journey across the Outback she keeps running into helpful people along the way. Specifically men. At one point she’s lucky enough to have a native Aboriginal lead her through a section of the way. We can’t just leave a woman alone in the wilderness, can we? Not yet anyways. On paper, “Tracks” should have been great but in execution it simply fails to be engrossing or inspirational.