Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began
Directed By: Stuart Beattie
Starring: Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz, Phoebe Tonkin, Chris Pang, Ashleigh Cummings, Andy Ryan
The Red Dawn remake is lucky the adaptation of John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When the War Began isn’t getting a wide release here in the states. It’d have some solid teens-band-together-to-fight-invaders competition. Tomorrow, When the War Began certainly suffers from some technical and acting issues, but the piece is so exciting and engaging overall you’ll undoubtedly be hoping for a sequel when the credits roll.
Caitlin Stasey stars as Ellie Linton, a teen living in a small Australian town looking to take a little vacation with her friends before heading back to school. After assembling the optimal group of campers, she loads up her parent’s Land Rover and heads off to Hell, a lush secluded paradise deep in the woods. The trip is as magical as they hoped it’d be, but eventually, the time comes to pack up and head home.
Upon arriving back at Ellie’s place, they find her home abandoned. While it doesn’t seem right, it isn’t until they find that all of their families are gone that they realize they really missed something while they were away. Turns out, their country is being invaded, their friends and family are imprisoned and now they’re the only ones left who can do anything about it.
Talk about a stellar plot. This scenario is ripe for the big screen. Tomorrow, When the War Began uses its first act to introduce you to all the main players and give you a chance to become invested in their own little personal sub-plots, only to turn them all upside down, testing what you think they’re capable of. The group is rather cliché, each person fitting into a teen stereotype, but the situation is so enthralling, you can’t help but to get on board with their fight.
Stasey makes for a solid lead, using Ellie to explore mental repercussions of what’s happening, specifically the need to start taking lives. Rachel Hurd-Wood steps in as Corrie, Ellie’s best friend, and while she tends to get pushed to the wayside in the heat of battle, she does have a rather engaging conflict with her boyfriend, Kevin (Lincoln Lewis). Deniz Akdeniz’s Homer is certainly one of the more colorful of the bunch, Homer being the group’s wild man who’s forced to buckle down when things get dangerous. Speaking of characters with big arcs, even though Ashleigh Cummings’ Robyn is more of a supporting role, the character experiences one of the most memorable changes of them all. Phoebe Tonkin serves up a decent amount of comic relief as the prim Fi. The only one of the bunch that isn’t solidified as much as he could be is Chris Pang’s Lee. Oddly enough, this could be because Lee doesn’t exactly have an archetype, a facet that would normally be praised, but in a world of character clichés, he can feel a little out of place.
We’ve also got a few performance issues, specifically when it comes to Hurd-Wood and Pang. Overall, Tomorrow, When the War Began can feel a little cut and paste as far as dialogue goes, certain lines clearly coming from different takes, being stitched together and then not matching as well. However, with Hurd-Wood and Pang, they’ve got a few scenes that feel a bit like readings rather than honest performances. A few of the film’s big action sequences also suffer a bit from cheap looking effects. It’s nothing too noticeably distracting, but perhaps writer-director Stuart Beattie should have considered using some tricks in the editing room rather than trying to show the play-by-play of certain explosions.
Are you ready for a massive contradiction? None of this really matters because Tomorrow, When the War Began is a blast. Even with some visual and performance flaws, the piece moves at a swift pace, is powered by an excellent soundtrack and handles its tonal shift beautifully. In fact, when things get really tense, you might even catch yourself shedding a tear or two. It may not be perfect, but that doesn’t stop Tomorrow, When the War Began from totally sucking you in and offering up an incredibly enthralling experience. The only problem with that? The book Tomorrow, When the War Began comes from a series and the movie version of book one ends at a point that’ll leave you desperate for a sequel.