STARRING: Rachel Hurd-Wood, Phoebe Tonkin, Caitlin Stasey, Lincoln Lewis, Masa Yamaguchi

2010, 103 Minutes, Directed by:
Stuart Beattie

There is more than a whiff of sci-fi around Tomorrow When the War Began even though it is ostensibly an action flick . . .

Based on the first book in a series of popular young adult books by Aussie writer John Marsden, it is basically an Aussie version of Red Dawn, the silly 1984 John Milius action flick in which America is invaded by the Soviet Union and Cuba. (Coincidentally Red Dawn has recently been remade. This time round the invaders are North Korean. At the time of writing it was still awaiting a 2011 U.S. release date, same as Tomorrow When the World Began.)

A group of teenagers return from a weekend hiking trip to find that their hometown has been overrun as part of a full-scale invasion by an alliance of neighboring Asian countries seeking more lebensraum. Initially they merely struggle to survive and avoid capture by the invading army.

Later on they begin to fight back and wage a one-band behind-the-enemy-lines guerilla war against the invaders. It is never specified exactly which country has invaded Australia and the enemy troops are the same faceless nondescript presence that Vietcong troops were in all those Vietnam War movies from the 1980s / 1990s following Platoon. (Much can be made of how the movie subconsciously – or even consciously for that matter! – reflect white Australian anxieties when it comes to their Asian neighboring countries, but we won’t go into that here.)

"Teen girls chatter away endlessly about their boyfriends!"

Our teen heroes may be a photogenic bunch and probably the oldest movie teens ever except maybe for the ones in Grease way back when, but what elevates Tomorrow, When the War Began from many other action flicks is how they screw up just like anyone else thrown into a similar situation would.

In one scene two teen girls chatter away endlessly about boyfriends instead of being alert while on a sabotage mission. In another someone forgot to bring a lighter to set a petrol tanker alight in order to destroy a bridge used by the enemy forces!

It is most sci-fi-y in its opening scenes which echo many post-apocalypse movies in which characters re-emerge from who knows where to find the planet being overrun by zombies, the population decimated by a mysterious plague or whatever.

That said, Tomorrow, When the War Began is slow to get started - one can just imagine what wags will make of the title! And even when it does, it still comes to the occasional full stop when characters pause to, er, discuss their boyfriends. Still there is at least one action sequence halfway through the film that will leave a silly grin on your face. The action finale however seems bland by comparison.

Stunts and production values are of a professional quality and acting is decent. Some time is also spent on developing characters.

It is also clearly intended to be the first installment in a potential franchise and the ending plays a bit like a pilot episode for some TV series. (There are seven books in the series.) It seems however doubtful that the movie will get a mainstream American release. After all, most American teens probably won’t even find Australia on a world map, never mind care whether it is invaded by another country!

Plus, there is the accent thing. Remember how they dubbed the Mel Gibson with an American actor’s voice in the original Mad Max back then? American audiences might prefer to see their own country being invaded by Asiatic hordes on the big screen, but Tomorrow, When the War Began is as glossy and slick as any Hollywood production . . .

(See? We wrote the whole review without making a single quip about who in their right minds would want to invade Australia . . . oops!)



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