Tracks (2014): Looks Can Be Deceiving (Review)

 

Based on the memoir written by Robyn Davidson of the same title. “Tracks” chronicles the nine-month, 1,700 mile trek Davidson undertook travelling from the town of Alice Springs, across the deserts of west Australia, and concluding at the Indian Ocean. Accompanying her on the quest were four camels, which she trained from a feral state, and her long-time dog.

Tales of miraculous human achievement and survival against Mother Nature are nothing new to the big screen. That being said, these adaptations tend to assess protagonist, heroic qualities to the inhibited. Occasionally the missteps and mistakes of our combatants are evenly highlighted, typically unintentionally, rarely intended. These faux-pas can be spotted in such “against all odds” films as Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours” and J. C. Chandor’s “All is Lost.”

Aaron Ralston, the lead in Boyle’s faithful adaptation, goes hiking alone in Utah, additionally Ralston informed no other person to his plans or whereabouts, both intensely frowned upon. Theoretically, Ralston could’ve prevented the unfortunate circumstance that forced him to make inconceivable decisions. As for our unnamed hero, dubbed “the man” in “All is Lost.” He makes conscientious decisions that aren’t exactly nautically sound for someone who appears to know his way around a vessel, drawing the ire of boat-fanatics. In this case, it’s fairly obvious that Robyn analyzed and evaluated her journey to near perfection in “Tracks.” However, one cannot always prepare for and escape the inevitable danger of the wilderness, no matter where you might find yourself. Undertaking this type of journey alone is practically asking for trouble, intentionally putting one’s life in jeopardy. Personally, these idiosyncrasies don’t get under my skin or infuriate me, but you might gauge it differently.

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I find that “Tracks” makes its falsely placed heroism painfully obvious, and you can’t really blame it. Davidson’s reasoning ultimately is nothing more than to escape her past and present. With each step however, comes to the realization that one cannot outrun either. It sounds uninspired because it is, it’s simple. We all have our place we’d run to, to escape it all, Davidson simply indulges the fantasy. It’s a common narrative, resulting in fairly contrived, predictable structuring. That being said, the execution of such is so overwhelmingly beautiful, you’ll be stricken with instant amnesia, forgetting all about the commonality you share with Davidson, in a more general sense.

No, much like it’s inspiring, albeit somewhat diluted, source material, “Tracks'” justification is utterly meaningless. We’re here to simply embrace the experience, no matter what it throws at you, emotionally, mentally, and physically. It exists to make our soul twinge and ache, because it can. Davidson, who’s reasoning and method aren’t exactly unprecedented, only wanted to find solace, to experience her very own pilgrimage, to be at one with nature. Again, not exactly aspirations that are unheard of. I know it might seem a little cliche and severely unrewarding, even as if I’m taking the easy way out. But conversely, there’s beauty hiding underneath this melodramatic, unsatisfying, simple truth, and it’s refreshing to an extent. Davidson’s reactions, portrayed by the lovely Mia Wasikowska, both emotionally and physically to the justification, preparation, and execution of the trek is undeniable, as the truth often is. Robyn didn’t entertain ulterior motives, she didn’t allow for the polluting of her pure intentions for a grander meaning or hidden depth,”Tracks” radiates this.

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Regardless of whatever I may say about “Tracks,” its simplicity and superficiality. There’s no denying that the film’s visuals are easy on the eyes, constantly pulling your attention away from its lackluster viscera. Vast panoramas of Australian deserts and small villages inhabited with entrancing, seasoned locals and the native flora and fauna cinematically polished and completed with a musical accompaniment that perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere and terrain. Conversely, director John Curran isn’t afraid to exemplify the opposite end of the spectrum. There is a significant amount of animal deaths in this film, so proceed with caution if you tend to get fragile with that sort of thing.

Wasikowska gives a tremendous performance and visually “Tracks” is as vibrant and resplendent as they come. However, as impressive as Wasikowska’s portrayal of Robyn Davidson is, there’s the very real possibility that Adam Driver, the only supporting performer worth noting, steals the spotlight. Despite never being on screen for more than five minutes at a time. Driver is comically naive and charismatically charming. However, while overall entertaining and performed magnificently, it’s best to take “Tracks” at face value. There is very little depth beyond its glimmering, sadly all too familiar surface.

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The Good: Strong outings from Wasikowska and Driver
The Bad: Animal lovers beware
The Ugly: The film’s blatant, almost condescending idolization of Robyn Davidson

Overall: 7.5/10

Written By Joseph Falcone


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  • The Vern

    You had me at Mia Wasikowska. I’m liking her in ever movie I see

  • Great work Joseph. I haven’t seen it yet but this one sounds a bit like The Way Back: performances on point and visuals eloquent but perhaps not as involving as it ought to be.

    Adam.

  • Tom

    That is an excellent review Joseph. I actually think I saw a preview for this some time back but I’ve completely completely forgotten about it! Thanks for pulling it back out from underneath the rug, I want to see it despite the conventionality of it. These kinds of films are my cup of tea for sure. But I totally side with you on how sometimes the overt lack-of-movie-becoming-the-theme gets a bit old sometimes. Simple movies are at times a bit too simple for their own good.

  • Joseph

    Thanks Tom! Happy to revive “Tracks.” Despite its conventionality, it really is visually marvellous and the performances are very strong. I really didn’t mind the simplicity of this flick, although it is very obvious that they tried to masquerade the lack of depth and reasoning. Give it a go, there’s definitely value here!

  • Joseph

    Thank you, Adam! The similarities between the two films are, as you mentioned, strong, yet limited. “Tracks” is worth the watch, even if it’s nothing more than eye-candy!

  • Joseph

    Thanks bud! I love Wasikowska as well. You should give this film a watch, if only for her brilliance!

  • fernandorafael_c2c

    Fantastic review, Joseph. I will proceed with caution, then.

  • Joseph

    Thanks Fernanado! It’s definitely worth an initial viewing.