Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: First Trailer For Gillian Flynn's 'Dark Places' Starring Charlize Theron, Chloë Moretz, And Nicholas Hoult Watch: First Trailer For Gillian Flynn's 'Dark Places' Starring Charlize Theron, Chloë Moretz, And Nicholas Hoult Review: Neill Blomkamp's 'Chappie,' Starring Die Antwoord, Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver And Hugh Jackman Review: Neill Blomkamp's 'Chappie,' Starring Die Antwoord, Dev Patel, Sigourney Weaver And Hugh Jackman 'Chappie' Actor Admits There Was "Tension" On Set With Die Antwoord's Ninja; Check Out Two New Featurettes 'Chappie' Actor Admits There Was "Tension" On Set With Die Antwoord's Ninja; Check Out Two New Featurettes Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Actor Contenders Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Actor Contenders 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Line-Up Announced: James Franco’s ‘Adderall Diaries,’ Olivia Wilde In ‘Meadowland’ & More 2015 Tribeca Film Festival Line-Up Announced: James Franco’s ‘Adderall Diaries,’ Olivia Wilde In ‘Meadowland’ & More First Look: Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Edward Snowden In Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' First Look: Joseph Gordon-Levitt As Edward Snowden In Oliver Stone's 'Snowden' Drew Goddard To Write And Direct Sony & Marvel's 'The Spectacular Spider-Man'; 'Sinister Six' Scrapped Drew Goddard To Write And Direct Sony & Marvel's 'The Spectacular Spider-Man'; 'Sinister Six' Scrapped Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Picture Contenders Premature Oscar Predictions: The 2016 Best Picture Contenders Watch: Original Short Film Version Of 'Whiplash' Starring Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons Watch: Original Short Film Version Of 'Whiplash' Starring Oscar Winner J.K. Simmons Watch: Nifty Video Examines David Fincher’s Subtle Repetition Of Framing And Blocking In 'Gone Girl' Watch: Nifty Video Examines David Fincher’s Subtle Repetition Of Framing And Blocking In 'Gone Girl' Sigourney Weaver Says She'll Be Playing A New Character In The 'Avatar' Sequels Sigourney Weaver Says She'll Be Playing A New Character In The 'Avatar' Sequels Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt’s Untitled Montana Drama With Michelle Williams & More Kristen Stewart Joins Kelly Reichardt’s Untitled Montana Drama With Michelle Williams & More 'Prisoners' & 'Enemy' Director Denis Villeneuve To Helm 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Harrison Ford Confirmed To Return 'Prisoners' & 'Enemy' Director Denis Villeneuve To Helm 'Blade Runner' Sequel, Harrison Ford Confirmed To Return The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far "I F*cked It Up": Neill Blomkamp Says He Wants To Go Back To 'Elysium' And "Do It Correctly" "I F*cked It Up": Neill Blomkamp Says He Wants To Go Back To 'Elysium' And "Do It Correctly" The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 Best Of 2014: The 15 Best Movie Soundtracks Of 2014 The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki

Review: 'Tracks' A Gorgeous Film Led By A Terrific Performance From Mia Wasikowska

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist September 17, 2014 at 6:23PM

2
Tracks

Tracks” has been a long time coming. Ever since Robyn Davidson wrote her 1979 memoir of her 1700-mile, eight-month trek across the Australian outback from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, and the book became an award-winning best-seller around the world, Hollywood has been sniffing around it. Multiple attempts to mount an adaptation have been made — Julia Roberts was attached to a version for much of the 1990s — but it finally took the producers of “The King’s Speech” and the oft-undervalued New York-born, Australian-based director John Curran (“We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” “The Painted Veil”) to get it made. And for many, it’ll have been worth the wait: it’s a very handsome film with a terrific central performance, even if it’s not quite an unqualified triumph.

Tracks

Mia Wasikowska takes the lead role of Davidson who, haunted by tragedy and far from comfortable around civilization, heads to Alice Springs (more or less the center of Australia) in order to acquire the three camels she’ll need to carry her supplies on an epic trek through the desert to the West Coast. After a few false starts, she ends up with four of the beasts — Dookie, Bub, Zelly and baby Goliath — and with faithful dog Diggity, heads out into the wilderness. The only concession she’s forced to make is agreeing to have a National Geographic photographer, Rick Smolan (Adam Driver of “Girls” fame), meet her once a month or so to help document her journey.

And as you might expect, that’s about it, plot-wise. By nature, it’s an episodic film, with memorable incidents — an attack by wild camels, a tragic poisoning, an amusing encounter with another cross-country traveller — but there's not much in the way of a throughline beyond the occasional flashbacks into Davidson’s backstory, and her sometimes romantic, sometimes prickly relationship with Rick. Curran and first-time writer Marion Nelson do a fair job at mixing things up (a late injection of humor courtesy of Aboriginal guide Mr. Eddy, played by bona-fide Elder Rolley Minutma, works especially well), but the arguably generous runtime just short of two hours inevitably means that the film can sometimes feel like a slog, even if it’s hard to imagine an adaptation where that wouldn’t be the case.

'Tracks' Starring Mia Wasikowska & Adam Driver

Still, most will find it’s a journey worth taking, and that’s thanks in a big way to Wasikowska (though Driver’s beguilingly charming presence is welcome every time he appears as well). The actress continues to go from strength to strength, and Davidson is right in her wheelhouse. It’s hard to imagine another actress as well-suited to the awkward, faintly asexual figure who dominates the film, and even aside from an easy rapport with the animals, Wasikowska seems to virtually blend into the landscape like she was born there (indeed, the actress was born in Canberra).

And what a landscape it is. Not since Nicolas Roeg’sWalkabout” has the fearsomely beautiful variety of the nation’s barren countryside been so well showcased, thanks to sterling photography from Mandy Walker (who manages to top her already-impressive work on Baz Luhrmann’s “Australia”), her work proving clean, crisp and very beautiful indeed — shots of Wasikowska and her camel train crossing blinding white sands, or of their shadows on cracked earth are among the year’s most impressive. The score, by first-time feature composer Garth Stevenson, is equally lovely, making the film a pleasure for the ears as well as the eyes.

Tracks, Mia Wasikowska

That said, the film never quite lingers as anything beyond an extremely well-made travelogue — a version of the kind of TV series that former Monty Python member Michael Palin has become known for in recent years. While Nelson’s script (which is also guilty of some clumsy foreshadowing in places) attempts to ground Davidson’s journey in past tragedy, she mostly remains an enigma, and a slightly muddled flashback motif gives the impression that the whole expedition has essentially been driven by the death of her own Old Yeller. It’s a beautiful experience, for sure, but you don’t come away feeling much more enlightened about the soul of either the film’s subject or its setting.

Still, Curran again demonstrates why he’s something of an unsung talent, with truly accomplished and impressive filmmaking, and on top of her turn in “Stoker” earlier in the year, Wasikowska reminds us all that she’s in possession of one of the most individual screen presences of her generation. The film’s undoubtedly a gorgeous look at the Australian outback, but those looking for deeper nourishment will be left a touch disappointed. [B]

This is a reprint of our review from the 2013 Venice Film Festival.

This article is related to: Reviews, Review, Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Tracks, John Curran


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

E-Mail Updates