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Tomorrow When

Australia 2010
Directed by
Stuart Beattie
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
4 stars

Tomorrow When The War Began

Synopsis: In the isolated bucolic coastal NSW town of Wirrawee, seven teenagers head off for a weekend’s camping adventure, led by Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey). When they return they find their homes deserted and their families incarcerated. They soon discover that an unexpected military invasion has taken place, that Australia is now at war with an unidentified invading Asian army and that they must take on the enemy in their midst.

Exciting, entertaining and impressively faithful to John Marsden’s popular novel, Tomorrow When The War Began should be a winner, not only among teens but even adult audiences. In short, first-time Australian director Beattie, who also adapted Marsden’s novel into a screenplay, has given us a true Aussie blockbuster that can stand proudly with many of that genre out of Hollywood. It is a format about which Beattie, an experienced screenwriter who has worked on the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise, knows a thing or two.

I’ve read several of the Marsden novels in the series, and even knowing the outcomes, found myself gripped by the suspense of the whole film. Despite certain sequences that fall into the formulaic trap (montages of frolicking teens, slow-mo running from imminent explosions, overly obvious use of popular songs etc), the film draws its strengths from strong characterisation, excellent action sequences and a lovely two part approach – life before the war, in which the different characters and their relationships to each other are firmly established, and then, the new world they must face, drawing them out of their immaturity into a new, challenging and dangerous life.

It is in the first 25 minutes of the film that the kids’ varying and complex characters are economically and persuasively portrayed. Former Neighbours cast member Caitlin Stasey as the fearless Ellie is both beautiful and believable. Her best friend, Corrie, is played by Rachel Hurd-Wood, a British actress who starred in Perfume: The Story Of A Murderer (2006).  Other characters are the initially cowardly Kevin (Lincoln Lewis, a recruit from Home And Away), Greek larrikin, Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), city chick, Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin), sensitive Vietnamese, Lee (Chris Pang), the religious Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings), and slack stoner, Chris (Andrew Ryan). All the actors inhabit their characters completely and the intelligently articulated dialogue and relationships between them feels genuine. A gentle balance is created between what are normal teen ways of behaving and the dramatic maturation required of them in such an unexpected and shocking situation.

When the action hots up it is intense, thrilling and loud, a fabulous technical achievement of special effects. Sometimes credibility is stretched as to how Ellie is so adept at driving vehicles like tankers and garbage trucks, or how the kids so easily adapt to handling military weapons and performing instinctively soldier-like manoeuvres, but in true blockbuster style we are carried along for the ride.

The fictional town of Wirrawee is lovingly portrayed, as is the amazingly beautiful, secluded mountainous area to which the kids trek, known as Hell, but actually more like Heaven compared to what they discover back in town! Filming has taken place in a variety of beautiful NSW locations, including Dungog, the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains, and good old Oz scrubs up really well, helped by the excellent camerawork of cinematographer Ben Nott.




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