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Tracks is a movie that was over 30 years in the making with actresses like Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts being attached to the project. Lead by Mia Wasikowska, Tracks is an interesting, thematic character study.
In the mid-seventies, Robyn Davidson (Wasikowska) is a determined young woman who leaves the big city behind for Alice Springs in the middle of Australia. She plans to raise money and gain skills before attempting to cross the Australian deserts to the Indian Ocean: a journey of 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometers). With sponsorship from National Geographic, she sets off with her dog and four camels and meets American photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) at various points on her journey.
Wasikowska gives a fantastic, compelling performance as a young determined woman who puts herself through a massive physical and mental toll. She is a character who is uncomfortable with modern society, and everyone she meets, from her friends to hardened outback men, think she is mad for wanting to take such a dangerous journey.
Robyn is a character who has to negotiate for everything she wants to complete her journey and she is determined to do it her own way. She is in the shadow of her father who was himself an explorer and disappeared in Australian wilderness. Robyn is haunted by her past as she has flashbacks during her journey about the various tragedies of her life.
Some of the best moments in Tracks are when Robyn is all alone in the wild, giving Wasikowska a fantastic opportunity to show off her a talents, as she goes through the emotional stresses she endures. She is believable as she treks through the hostile environment, battling for survival and doing for her the unimaginable, including shooting wildlife and having to discipline her camels.
As she progresses on her journey her sense of reality is questioned, affected by both her isolation and the hot, physical environment. This is amplified by the direction of John Curran, who adds to the surreal nature of these sequences and the fantastic cinematography by Mandy Walker, who truly highlights the beautiful landscape while still showing it as hot, dry and harsh.
The main focus of Tracks is Robyn’s personal journey yet it still looks at some wider issues particularly the treatment of Aboriginal people. This theme is prevalent throughout the movie, starting early as one Aboriginal person suffers racial abuse, and keeps going as Aboriginal people are seen living in poverty or gawked at by tourists. Even people who have good intentions are disrespectful of their traditions. Robyn ends up being a character who has more affinity with the Aboriginal people and fellow loners and outsiders than with mainstream society.
Tracks is in keeping with movies about outsiders looking for a purpose in their lives, like Into the Wild. It is a brilliantly acted movie blessed with excellent visuals and themes to easily sink your teeth into.