Tomorrow When The War Began
Seven teenagers from a small town go away on a weekend camping trip to have a bit of fun. When they return home they find that their town has been taken over by a heavily armed invasion force. The teens form a guerilla army to fight back.
No, this is not John Milius's 1984 action adventure Red Dawn, which featured a hot cast that included Patrick Swayze, C Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen. Although there are some similarities, Tomorrow When The War Began is an exciting adaptation of the novel by Australian author John Marsden, which has been a staple of the secondary school curriculum for over a decade. The Tomorrow series predated the Harry Potter and Twilight series, and were a great read for young adults. It explored themes of heroism, mateship, loyalty, and teen angst.
Gun Hollywood screenwriter Australian-born Stuart Beattie, whose credits include Pirates Of The Caribbean, Collateral, the bloated Australia, and the recent G I Joe, etc, remains faithful to the source, although he brings an edgier quality to the material. Beattie also makes his directorial debut here, and he proves a dab hand, handling the action and pyrotechnics with kinetic energy. Beattie doesn't tone down the violence, and his depiction of the invaders is at times quite eerie and unnerving. A scene set in the showgrounds, where the local townsfolk are being held captive in concentration-like conditions, is unexpectedly violent.
Beattie also impresses with his handling of the cast, drawn mainly from the world of television soaps, including Lincoln Lewis (from soapie Home And Away, etc) and Caitlin Stasey (from Neighbours, etc). The characters are well developed, and the film allows some time to explore their problems and insecurities. Newcomer Stasey plays Ellie, whose fierce spirit and independence makes her the natural leader of this small group of rebels even though she is unsure that her foolhardy actions are right.
Deniz Akdeniz is a standout and brings touches of humour to the film with his performance as Homer - something of a larrikin when we first meet him, he matures into a real leader when confronted with dangerous situations. Ashleigh Cummings is also good as the deeply religious Robyn, who is forced to make a choice between her conscience and survival in the heat of battle. Colin Friels contributes a cameo as a doctor, who has managed to remain hidden from the invading forces. Andy Ryan resembles a young Jack Black with his role as the stoned slacker Chris.
Tomorrow When The War Began is easily the most exciting locally produced action film since Mad Max 2, and it resembles a Hollywood blockbuster. The film delivers with strong characters, lots of well-staged adrenaline pumping action, and solid performances from an attractive young cast. Tomorrow When The War Began has been beautifully shot on location in NSW by cinematographer Ben Nott (Daybreakers, etc). This film certainly sets a high standard for future instalments should the Tomorrow series become the next big movie franchise.