You have to have a certain amount of affection for any new movie that aims to be the 21st-century Gone with the Wind. Australia – from director Baz Luhrmann – isn’t shy about having such grandiose ambitions. Floridly told, flush with emotion and clocking in at two hours and 40 minutes, Australia wants to sweep previous sweeping historical romances off their feet. Nicole Kidman stars as Lady Sarah Ashley, an English aristocrat who travels to Australia on the eve of World War II to visit the cattle station she has inherited. Finding the business under siege from a ruthless cattle baron (Bryan Brown), she turns to a restless cowboy named Drover (Hugh Jackman) for help in navigating the harsh social and actual landscape of Australia. As a bracing historical corrective, Luhrmann also adds a parallel plot involving Nullah (Brandon Walters), a mixed-race boy Lady Ashley protects from an Australian government that separated such children from their families into the 1970s. (In many ways, the movie is an act of reconciliation.) Under Luhrmann’s direction, every moment of Australia is infused with a sense of operatic excitement. The scenes all seem to be hurtling toward something , and they do so with such breathless panache that it almost doesn’t matter that many of them never quite make it to any particular destination.