‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’ Retro Review

Director: Stuart Beattie

Starring: Soap stars and high-school drama club graduates whose names I can’t be bothered googling.

Plot: For those who didn’t attend English class in Australia, a group of young people try to strike back when the land down under is invaded.

Review: A group of students from the Teen Cliche High School, including Farm Girl, Bible Girl, Jock Guy, Slutty Girl, Posh Bird, Asian Guy and Rebel Guy, go on a camping trip only to return from the wild to find that Australia has been invaded and taken over by an unspecified coalition of Asian nations who have rounded up their families and put them in a camp. In the circumstances they decide that they have to become soldiers and take the enemy armies on headfirst. There is plenty that works here. Based on the best selling English classroom required reading, the situation is an interesting one bringing the ‘what would you do?’ theme to forefront. Concepts such as patriotism and survival also get a run. Some of the high suspense moments and the cross section of rural Australian so well realised in the novels do translate well to the big screen.

The major drawback is the on-screen talent. Most of the actors are downright terrible bringing absolutely no charm to the roles. Each character abides by a simple stereotype and there’s very little endearing about them. Many act in a completely contrary fashion to how they’re described in the flat I-look-up-to-Sarah-Conner voice over, especially Stoner Guy who is introduced as a ‘genius’ yet acts like a blibbering idiot whose sole mission in life is to get killed through sheer stupidity. It’s very hard to give a damn about any of these people, and some you actively want to see shot.

The tone of the movie also seems to be struggling. It often aspires to be the great Aussie Action Blockbuster, and this feels like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Everything is to bright and garish which contrasts clumsily with the violence. A better approach may have been to add a few more strokes of realism, which would’ve added suspense and given the jerry-rigged explosives more impact than yet another big boom (often then shown from three different angles in slow motion). A shame that this style wasn’t used, as the deserted, car strewn streets could’ve become a real striking image. Plot holes also distract, as does odd character behaviours. Scenes where they discuss getting out off town cut to a scene of our young rebels driving a bulldozer down the road with no explanation of where they got it, or how they know how to operate it. Christian Girl suddenly throwing off the high moral label to gun down cookie cutter Asians is also a bit odd. The film-makers have gone out of their way to ensure that the enemy is a faceless invading army, skillfully dodging around questions like ‘who they are’ and ‘what do they want’ in favour of full body uniforms and sunglasses worn at night. When we’re forced to emphasise with a character who just blew an enemies face clean off because “I just killed a person”, it’s like watching someone get upset over stepping on an ant while the rest of the hive pick at their flesh.

Ultimately a stodgy adaptation and a missed oppotunity.

FOUR outta TEN