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Tomorrow, When The War Began

Tomorrow, When The War Began

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

RED Dawn meets coming-of-age teenage angst in Australian blockbuster Tomorrow, When The War Began with predictably lop-sided results.

Based on the first of seven best-selling Australian novels by John Marsden, Stuart Beattie’s film is also another of those blatant franchise starters that feels like an opening chapter.

It follows a group of eight Australian high-schoolers – led by Caitlin Stasey’s Ellie – as they head into the bush for a camping trip, only to return home to find that hostile forces have taken over their homes and killed or imprisoned most of their families.

Determined to make a stand, they opt to start a guerrilla-style resistance… while getting to grips with their own feelings for each other (both romantic and platonic).
Tomorrow, When The War Began became the highest grossing domestic film in Australia when it was released last year and now looks to try and emulate that success world-wide before at least two sequels follow.

But while watchable if only to see how preposterous things get, Beattie’s film ultimately has too many flaws to ignore.

The mix of awkward teen romance and gritty battle scenes is never convincing, especially since the onus is on the former, while a lot of the acting leaves a lot to be desired.

Stasey and Rachel Hurd-Wood emerge with the most credit (Hurd-Wood especially, given her English background) but no one is particularly helped by a screenplay that’s content to reduce everyone to stereotype – from bad boy with a heart of gold (Deniz Akdeniz’s Homer) to shrinking religious violet turned machine gun toting babe (Ashleigh Cummings’ Robyn).

Beattie’s decision to leave viewers dangling at the very point they entered also feels presumptuous and unfair, particularly as some of what Ellie describes in her opening to-camera monologue never actually transpires.

It’s a shame, for in some of the set pieces Beattie shows a deft hand despite limited financial means, while some of the film’s more serious themes probably warrant greater exploration.

In the final analysis, though, Tomorrow, When The War Began struggles to explain why Marsden’s books were able to become so popular Down Under, while the prospect of at least two more films is somewhat dispiriting.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 103mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 19, 2011