Saturday, October 03, 2015

Tracks (2013) ***

One could be forgiven for confusing 2013's “Tracks” with 2014's “Wild,” that other recent movie about an emotionally damaged woman going on a trek. It's a mystery to me why Hollywood keeps coming out with twin projects like this, but it happens again and again. Years later, can anyone remember the tiny differences between 1998's “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact” or even 2013's “Olympus has Fallen” and “White House Down”? The website has an article that offers a couple of possible explanations for this phenomenon, as well as an exhaustive list of “twin” movies.

“Tracks” and”Wild” are definitely twins in the sense of Hollywood timing, and truth-be-told, the stories and the storytelling styles are remarkably similar. (See my review of “Wild” for the story on that one, which covers Cheryl Strayed's hike of the Pacific Coast Trail.) “Tracks” tells the story of Robyn Davidson's 9-month-long trek across the Australian outback. With her dog, four camels, and a rifle, she set out from Alice Springs and hiked west 1700 miles, all the way to the ocean. She crossed various flavors of desert and encountered a surprising number of remote villages and homesteads. I had imagined that she was totally alone for months, crossing uninhabited land, but it turns out there are dirt roads and people in the Outback, just not a lot of them.

For me, “Wild” is the better and more substantial of the two films. Reese Witherspoon portrayed her “Wild” character with a lot of angst and fire, and the movie has a strong narrative arc. Mia Wasikowska does a serviceable job in “Tracks,” but we never get much of a sense of the character beyond the fact that she wants to get out and away from people. I get that Davidson felt more comfortable with animals than with people, but the movie holds the audience at arm's length, too. (I do like the way she interacts with the Aborigines she meets, though. With them, her quiet and reticence seem perfectly natural.) Comparisons between “Wild” and “Tracks” may seem unfair, but given the timing of their releases and the many similarities, even down to their one-word titles, comparisons are inevitable. Regarded on its own merits, however, “Tracks” is still a worthwhile movie, beautifully filmed, and a reminder that all who wander are not lost.

3 stars out of 5

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