Character and action blend to make a compelling tale of teens at Just War in Tomorrow, When the War Began.
As a group of friends glance at a crystal clear night sky, a succession of fighter jets from an unknown country pierce through the darkness, filling the air with jet fumes.
It is the thing of nightmares, especially in Australia, the “Lucky Country” which is supposedly immune to the notion of invasion. That delusion is shattered in a surreal scene where an Australian fighter plane is hounded by enemy aircraft and blown out of the sky.
Bearing witness to the impossible are a group of teens of varied ethnicity and faith, played by a talented group of young Aussie actors and one Brit in Rachel Hurd-Wood.
A weekend camping trip at a lush, hidden paradise within the deep bushland that surrounds their country farm community makes them oblivious to the carnage outside, as an invading army of Asian origin (China would be the best guess) has taken their and other communities under siege.
Cut off from the world (internet and mobile connection is kaput) and with nowhere to turn, these little Rambo’s decide to fight back Red Dawn style.
If the premise sounds familiar, that is because Tomorrow, When the War Began is based on the popular series of books written by John Marsden. It has long been a literary favourite for teens all over the world, and with such high expectation it is indeed that much more impressive that this film adaptation delivers.
Driving its success is writer/director Stuart Beattie, who has created a career writing screenplays for the likes of Michael Mann (Collateral) and Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl), and his time in Hollywood has been to the Australian film industry’s benefit.
Finally, a filmmaker has been given the funds and the material to create a genre piece with strong mainstream potential, and Beattie does not drop the ball delivering a well written, and well choreographed action movie with enough adolescent drama to keep things light in between the guerrilla warfare.
Ideas are also paramount, with the concept of Just War resonating through the action and emotions of its characters, who are faced with the implication that to kill is to live, and to defend is to declare war.
There are snags in its execution. Caitlin Stasey is not wholly convincing as Ellie, the leader of the teen troop, with stronger turns found in Phoebe Tonkin’s beauty queen Fiona, and Deniz Akdeniz bad boy Homer.
Also shaky is some of the CGI work that looks like it was still in post production.
Yet as an adaptation of a beloved novel and an action thriller driven by moral and philosophical ideas, Tomorrow, When the War Began is a winner despite some minor stumbles.
The possibility of a sequel is teased at its conclusion. If so, tomorrow will be worth waiting for.