Tomorrow, When the War Began
dir-scr Stuart Beattie
prd Michael Boughen, Andrew Mason
with Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz, Phoebe Tonkin, Chris Pang, Ashleigh Cummings, Andy Ryan, Colin Friels, Don Halbert, Olivia Pigeot, Stephen Bourke
release Aus 2.Sep.10, UK 8.Apr.11
10/Australia Paramount 1h43
Tomorrow When the War Began
Freedom fighters: Stasey and Akdeniz (above); Lewis, Cummings, Pang and Tonkin (below)
Tomorrow When the War Began

R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Tomorrow When the War Began Based on the first in John Marsdon's bestselling seven-novel series, this film is essentially an Australian version of 1984's Red Dawn. It's rather big on explosive action and short on real characterisation, but it's gripping and engaging.

Ellie (Stasey) is a typical 17-year-old in small-town Wirrawee, begging her parents to let her and her pal Corrie (Hurd-Wood) take a weekend camping trip to an isolated valley called Hell. They assemble a group with Corrie's boyfriend Kevin (Lewis), prankster Homer (Akdeniz), posh girl Fiona (Tonkin), Thai prodigy Lee (Pang) and good girl Robyn (Cummings). After a great few days, they come home to find their hometown overrun by an invading Asian army, with their family and friends being held in a prison camp. Now what? Do they run, hide or fight back?

Once we accept this unlikely, rather cliched grouping of kids, the dynamic between them starts to get more interesting. Each character has a handful of key personality points that help make their interaction bristle with possibilities, especially as the intensity of their situation pushes them into actions they would have never dreamed possible a few days earlier. The young actors are solid in their roles, even if they never get to add much depth.

Meanwhile, Beattie papers over plot holes by ramping up the action and exploiting the spectacularly scenery (yes, Hell is a paradise). Every car that crashes or is hit by a bullet bursts into a massive ball of flames, Michael Bay-style. And as the stakes rise, our heroes get more brazen in the ways they take on the occupying forces. This leads to several genuinely terrifying sequences as well as a few merciful moments of comic relief along the way, such as when they meet up with rich-kid stoner Chris (Ryan).

All of this means that the film is thoroughly good fun to watch. Without a single dull moment, it holds our interest and gets us cheering for these fresh, young stars to triumph over their anonymous enemy. That it's told from Ellie's perspective, framed with her video diary, gives it a slightly more personal angle. And with six books to go, it could spin into a gripping franchise.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 8.Mar.11

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Tomorrow When the War Began Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall