THE WAR BEGAN
STARRING: Rachel Hurd-Wood, Phoebe Tonkin,
Caitlin Stasey, Lincoln Lewis, Masa Yamaguchi
2010, 103 Minutes, Directed by:
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
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!)