Director: Stuart Beattie
Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz, Phoebe Tonkin, Chris Pang, Ashleigh Cummings, Andy Ryan, Colin Friels
Synopsis: A group of teenagers leave for a camping trip in middle-of-nowhere Australia. On their return, they discover the country has been invaded by enemy soldiers, and their families held hostage. They are forced to decide whether to return to hiding or whether to act. Based on the novel of the same name by John Marsden
A review by Film Nerd.
There is no end of discussion as to the flagging fortunes of the Australian Film Industry. We are a country of many talented exports both in front of and behind the camera, and that is still the case when we subtract all the Kiwi’s that we also often like to claim as our own. But an Australian hit is rare, and to date has often been restricted to the comedy genre, including you Crocodile Dundee‘s, your Castle’s, and your Kenny‘s. On occasion a drama will cause a stir, such as Lantana, Rabbit Proof Fence, or Samson and Delilah, yet they fail to draw a big audience. My theory is that this is a result of viewer fatigue. The Australian film industry releases example after example of “worthy dramas”, that delve into some pretty dark areas. Individually, each one of these films are often acknowledged to be brilliant. Unfortunately, with so many depressing films on offer, we need some light to balance that.
So adapting John Marsden’s Tomorrow series is perhaps exactly what was needed. Sure it is a drama in itself, but with a far greater action quotient, and a bit more opportunity for levity. I am delighted to say the film delivers on each of these fronts. When advertisements started airing for this, I was unfamiliar with the novels, so I read the first before seeing this film. It is a very faithful adaptation, keeping action squarely focussed on our teenage guerrilas. This permits the uncertainty felt by these kids to be shared by the audience. There are large chunks of the book left out, such as a side story of a local legend of The Hermit, but this is perhaps an understandable omission made to ensure pacing did not lag. I do not think screen writer and director Beattie need have worried. If I have one more prominent complaint then any other about this film is that I wanted to spend more time with my butt firmly planted in that chair, so I would have loved some more back story in there. Each character has their own characteristics to explore in detail, yet understandably the character we really get to know is Ellie, our narrator. Keeping her as the voice of the group, as she was in the books, really worked for the film, and I am glad this decision was made. Beattie is already a Hollywood screenwriter, who has penned the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and this is his first time in the big chair. If sequels get the green light, perhaps with greater experience he can make up for what was left out here.
The complaints I have heard elsewhere mainly concern the plotting and the acting of this film. I have addressed the plotting above, in what was somewhat a backhanded compliment. But I cannot be unfair. Tension was successfully created, and consistently ratcheted up to the explosive finale, leading to some genuinely emotional moments. Bride of Film Nerd’s reactions aptly represented both, hiding behind her scarf as the tension increased, and suspiciously quiet in the sadder scenes (she doesn’t like to admit she is upset in movies, I hope I don’t get a beating for sharing that!!). As for the acting, I will agree it was not some of the most polished acting I have seen, but regardless of this it was effective. An audience cannot be invested in characters they cannot credibly believe in. At the viewing I had though, this was certainly not the case, with cheers from the audience at big moments, as well as rounds of applause. So really can it be claimed these actors failed?? Hell, poor acting from the leads never stopped the Harry Potter series from progressing.
Do not let the Australian pedigree deter you. I highly recommend this film and cannot wait to hear sequels announced. Marsden did write seven books in this series after all!!
4 stars (out of a possible 5)
Tomorrow When The War Began on IMDB
Tomorrow When The War Began on Rotten Tomatoes