Just before the summer holidays are over we join friends Ellie and Corrie who want to go on one last adventure while they can. The two girls then gather together of all their friends and a few other people who they like for this last adventure of summer where they all head out into the Australian countryside for a weekend. Everything is going as until one night a few of the group are awoken by jets flying overhead. At the time they think nothing of it. That is until they return home to find that the whole town of Wirrawee is abandoned, the peaceful idyll of their home town has been shattered by a faceless invading Asian country. With their new found circumstances they are faced with the decision of either running away and hiding until it all goes away or fighting back to save their town, their country and their families.
This is the directorial debut of Stuart Beattie who is known for his work writing on the Pirates of the Caribbean series, he debut is based on a successful series of books by John Marsden, the first of which shares its name with this film – Tomorrow when the war began. John Marsden’s series of books is a young adult’s adventure saga and that is all you really need to know if you thinking of seeing this film.
It depends on what age group you belong to as to whether or not you will get the most out of this film. Those that are the same age as the lead characters living out this violent fantasy are likely to get the most from this film. But I’m not that age, that being the case, this was a little lost on me. The very idea of the teenagers fighting against a well armed force is a little hard to believe. Films like this aren’t made for people my age nevertheless I wasn’t completely alienated as there is still plenty of redeeming features. I have no knowledge of the books beyond that of their reputation thus I cannot comment on the films accuracy as an adaptation hence all the greatest strengths come from the production values.
The way in which the film was shot was visually impressive. The bigger set pieces in which we see a chase scene with the most unlikely of vehicles and the final climactic action scene are where the film shines its brightest. It’s here where the film engaged me most, this calibre of action may be occasional but it didn’t stop me from enjoying these sporadic highs. If you dig under the films greatest strength in its psychical embodiment of aggression you will find a very good looking film. The set design for the world in which the invading forces have created is impeccably crafted. This makes the contrast between what the group describes as hell and their new reality a profound if heavy handed truth. Hell is how they describe the natural world and hell is complete with the views and scenery that makes the film nothing less than beautiful.
As good as the cinematography was the looks of the film are the problems begin to take hold.
The cast is as easy on the eye as the natural world which the story inhabits. As pleasing as this is to watch it seems that the cast was chosen thanks to their looks rather than their skills as actors. Those actors who aren’t psychically appealing are used to represent the profound change and loss of innocence that the cast has gone through. This is achieved through two characters, a stoner that is introduced later on in the film and the religious member of the group. As transparent as this is, these characters are just one string to the scriptwriters approach to morality.
When the story breaks from the severity of its circumstances to reveal that our would-be warriors are actually teenagers, who are scarred and lack the confidence to move forward, the writing is solid and believable. These are kids who I see alot of myself in. Then we get head back into the chaos where the young guerrillas develop a sense of morality that shows itself only through the medium of the monologue. These monologues make sense dramatically; the ones about hell and their loss of innocence are relevant to the plot. Unfortunately in these all too common junctures the scriptwriters forget they are writing about teenagers, they forget they were constructing a story. Through these monologues the film has a colossal axe to grind at the expense of everything else; tomorrow when the war began becomes a flashy series of lectures with explosions in it.
As problematic as these monologues are they can be overlooked, unfortunately a problem that cannot be ignored is the films greatest weakness. This weakness is that this is the first in a series of films. Anywhere else that wouldn’t be so much of a problem and to some this may be construed as me being picky. But thanks to the films status as the first of a series of films it removes and sense of peril from proceedings, when you know these people will be in more of these film afterwards what can this film do to surprise or shock? In something about the insanity of war and violence the lack of tension and unpredictably conflicts with the pertinent that is trying to be made.
As bad as that is, the film doesn’t have an ending. Not only does the visual style change into something akin to a photo shoot it’s also a massive anti-climax. I really would have had a problem identifying that the film ended if it wasn’t for the credits as the film just ends by hinting at what is to come rather than what has been. What we have here is the set-up to a punch line that doesn’t until 2012 at the earliest.