Big in scope, and emotionally stimulating, this Australian pic about the doomed 1860 expedition of explorers Burke and Wills to cross the continent and back, is satisfying entertainment despite its length and seemingly downbeat subject.
That the story emerges quite differently on film is very much to the credit of director Graeme Clifford and screenwriter Michael Thomas, two expatriate Australians.
Russell Boyd’s superior cinematography, on the locations originally traversed by the explorers, is quite ravishing. Clifford shrewdly inserts flashbacks into the desert material evoking scenes of Wills at home in England and Burke’s dalliance with a comely opera singer.
Jack Thompson, with full beard, is an imposing Burke, a fiery-tempered Irishman whose determination to succeed clouds his judgment. This is one of Thompson’s best performances. British actor Nigel Havers is excellent as the scientist, Wills, stubbornly following his friend into the unknown while barely concealing his fears for the outcome.