out of Five
Running time: 113
Captivating real-life drama enriched by stunning cinematography, a contemplative, inspirational script, a superb central performance by Mia Wasiskowska and three adorable camels.
What's it all about?
Directed by John Curran, Tracks is based on the true story of adventurer Robyn Davidson, who walked across 1,700 miles of Australian desert in 1977 and wrote about her experiences for National
Geographic, with the article later being expanded into the best-selling book on which the film is based. Mia Wasikowska stars as 27 year old Robyn, who arrives in Alice Springs in 1976 and quickly
becomes disillusioned with her surroundings after encountering sexism and racism on a daily basis; soon, she's yearning for isolation and contemplates walking across the Australian desert, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean.
With the decision made to undertake her epic journey, Robyn sets about her preparations, securing (and breaking in) camels from a local camel farm and negotiating a deal for funding with National Geographic. Part of that deal involves her trip being documented by photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver, from HBO's Girls), but his constant presence jars with Robyn's desire for solitude, so she negotiates a compromise whereby he will meet her at a series of pre-arranged points on her
Wasikowska continues her run of impressively eclectic career choices with a terrific turn as Robyn, embodying both extraordinary toughness and aching vulnerability. It's also, needless to say, a palpably physical performance, with the effects of her journey visibly taking their toll on her sun-baked skin (either that, or the make-up department did a phenomenal job of making the sun damage look realistic).
There's also superb support from Driver (already one of America's most exciting supporting actors) and from Rolley Mintuma as Mr Eddie, the heavily bearded, Aboriginal elder who guides her through a section of the desert dotted with sacred sites. However, the supporting performance honours are roundly stolen by Robyn's five animal companions: her brilliantly named dog Diggity and her four scene-stealing camels (or rather, the animal actors playing them), Dookie, Bubs, Zelly and, the baby of the group, Goliath.
With the desert itself playing such a pivotal role in Tracks, it was obviously important to get the cinematography right and Curran's choice of Mandy Walker was inspired, since she shot similar locations for Baz Luhrmann's Australia. At any rate, she excels herself here, beautifully capturing the desert landscapes in rich tones that are truly awe-inspiring; she also captures some memorable images, such as a wonderful long shot of tiny Mia and her various animals moving across the vast, empty landscape.
The script is relatively light on dialogue (although there's a moderate amount of voiceover), allowing for a deeply immersive and contemplative experience, while there are also echoes of Nic Roeg's classic Walkabout (including at least one specific homage).
Stunningly beautiful and superbly acted, Tracks is a contemplative and inspiring drama that would make an excellent companion piece to Sean Penn's Into The Wild.