Tomorrow, When the War Began

2011-05-06 14:33
What it's about

A group of Australian teenagers go on a camping trip for a weekend but when they return they find their former lives obliterated and Australia a war zone after being invaded by a foreign enemy.

What we thought

It may be true that the only truly extraordinary thing about Tomorrow When the War Began is its name - a weird mixture of tenses and shrouded in mystery, it's easily one of the most evocative film titles of the year – but it's a surprisingly solid little action thriller that is sure to thrill its target audience of teenagers and young adults.

I don't say this lightly, either. “Young adult” cinema has, in recent years, been overrun by films such as Twilight and its offspring (I Am Number Four, Red Riding Hood). It's good news then that at long last something has come along that will appeal to younger audiences who want their cinema choices to have a bit more bite and a lot less vegetarian, sparkly vampires. But who ever would have thought that their saviour would be Antipodean in origin?

Based on the first in a series of teen novels by John Mardsen, Tomorrow When the War Began has a simple but very effective premise. It may, as so many have pointed out, bare a definite resemblance to the 1980s film Red Dawn but, when you consider that most of its target audience probably wouldn't have seen a film that is over a quarter century old, it's hard to really hold that against it. Especially because when you consider that it is essentially a story of regular, down to earth kids standing up to an oppressive, unfair and notably adult force, it's a tale that is well worth being retold to each new generation.     

Adult audiences – and critics especially – may find it easy to fault the film's lack of originality, its forays into far-fetchedness and its lack of complexity in its storytelling but, taking it for what it is, it does its job perfectly well. Stuart Beattie may not be a particularly flashy director but when you consider that he is most well known for writing turkeys like GI Joe and the latter two Pirates of the Caribbean movies, you have to appreciate that he is at least a perfectly competent storyteller. It's especially pleasing to watch action scenes where you can actually tell what the hell is going on.     
No less impressively solid is the cast that has been assembled to portray some rather likeable and pretty well drawn characters. The young actors concerned are all relatively inexperienced – at best appearing in a few soaps and small roles in smaller films – so it's impressive just how good they are. No one in the cast should expect Oscars for their work here but they all manage to pull off their roles quite well - even if it is with workmanlike proficiency rather than any dazzling artistry.   

But then, maybe expecting “dazzling artistry” is unfair for this sort of film. It doesn't exactly reinvent the wheel and more experienced cinema goers will probably feel that they've seen similar things done better elsewhere but there is something to be said for classic, straightforward storytelling. As such, while I can't in good conscience give it more than three stars out of five (or a somewhat better seven out of ten), younger audiences should feel free to add a star or two. This is a film that is proudly and unashamedly for them, after all.     


A solid action thriller that is sure to thrill its target audience of teenagers and young adults.
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