Review: Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010)

Tomorrow, When the War Began (2010)

Directed by: Stuart Beattie | 100 minutes | action, drama, war, adventure, romance | Actors: Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz, Phoebe Tonkin, Chris Pang, Ashleigh Cummings, Andrew Ryan, Colin Friels, Don Halbert, Olivia Pigeot, Stephen Bourke, Kelly Butler, Julia Yon, Dane Carson, Matthew Dale, Gary Quay, Michael Camilleric

“Australian answer to Jerry Bruckheimer’s movies!” headlines the back of the blu-ray disc of the hit film ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’, which was the most visited film of 2010 in its home country of Australia. It’s a bit of a dubious way to promote this film. ‘Tomorrow’ has both more and something different to offer than Bruckheimer’s films. Although the target audience here is also action-loving youth – and there is certainly quite a bit of spectacle present – ​​the makers seem to want to involve the female viewer a little more with their attention to (calf) loves and conversations about doubts and feelings. In addition, the film is slightly more political and dystopian than is usually the case, with subtle references to history and attention to the moral implications of war. The film certainly doesn’t get deep and has its own limiting superficiality, but the viewer is at least exposed to something more than blunt action and spectacular violence without consequences.

Since the cast mainly consists of soap actors, it is not surprising – and clearly a conscious choice of the makers – that some love affairs occur in the film. Nearly everyone in the contrived group of campers – two girlfriends want to go on an adventure in the wilderness, but one of the fathers is only allowed to leave when six others come with them – at the end of the film form a (romantic) set with someone else from the group. The requirements of the genre are that there are different, opposing archetypes – or stereotypes – present in the group of “heroes”, allowing characters to clash and prejudice to be overcome. And of course the apparent opposites come closer together (just like in the youth classic ‘The Breakfast Club’, for example, the rebellious boy and the frumpy, rich, dumb blonde fall in love). The necessary frivolities are also present, with some slow-motion splashing in a mountain stream and attention to the taut bodies of the attractive young actors and actresses. The way everyone comes together is unbelievable, as are the neatly rounded and predictable storylines (such as a strict religious type who of course picks up a weapon at the end of the film, despite her firm promise never to do so).

Yet these are only minor objections to a film that otherwise provides a lot of entertainment and a striking, threatening atmosphere. The way the invasion is introduced is subtle – with just a few fighter jets flying overhead while the youngsters are quietly and (still) safe camping – and the moment it really means business is shocking (when a plane is shot down by enemy fighters) . The response of the youth to the occupying forces is realistic for a change, with clear dismay and fear showing on their faces. Even though the occupying soldiers appear to be quite incompetent later in the film – during some chases – as a viewer you at least have the feeling that the heroes are in real danger (unlike, for example, the recent ‘Transformers’ films).

The exact reason for the invasion is not entirely clear, although a radio report hints that it could be neighboring countries that have fewer resources than Australia and want to enforce a fair distribution with the occupation. Not so unfairly, of course. It is nice that the personal moral objections to war are also considered and whether the enemy is really that villainous and deserves to die. Through a brief glance that one of the characters takes on a painting depicting the original inhabitants of Australia – the aborigines – in confrontation with their occupiers, the makers show that the proportions are not so black and white, and that the heroes of the film – or at least, their ancestors – (and all of us?) have butter on their heads too. It is usually not much more than a cursory acknowledgment or reference to these kinds of aspects, but at least it is something.

The action is often effective, thrilling and surprisingly well shot, including an entertaining chase involving a charging truck and a couple of buggies (which get caught in power lines and flip over) and a house being bombed and spectacularly engulfed in flames. The rest of the production also feels professional, with dynamic editing and beautiful, epic music. A great atmosphere for a more than competent action-adventure film. Let’s hope the next installments (because the movie misses based on the first part of a popular book series) continues this trend.

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