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Marina Antunes [DVD News 04.30.12] Australia action war

There was much talk about the similarities between Tomorrow, When the War Began, an adaptation of John Marsden's 1993 novel of the same title, and Red Dawn when we first posted the trailer for the Australian indie a few years ago. The similarities, both movies centering on a group of teens who find themselves bound together fighting an invading force, are obvious on the surface but these two films couldn't be further apart in tone. It's been over a decade since I last saw John Milius' film but I remember it fondly as a piece of Hollywood entertainment but I don't remember much of an emotional connection to any of the characters in Milius' film whereas Stuart Beattie's story is much smaller in scale, choosing to focus mostly on the story between the individuals than on any fighting.

That's not to say that Beattie's take steers clear of any action: there are a couple of memorable car chases, more than one stunt with oversized vehicles and a handful of spectacular explosions but the story doesn't center on the action but rather on the characters and how this group of friends becomes the only force fighting against a nameless invading army.

It all begins with a trip to the bush for the weekend when the country is attacked by an invading army. The teens are unaware of the events unfolding in the nearby town until they return home from the weekend to find their homes empty and everyone still alive corralled into a makeshift prison in the town's fair grounds. Rather than a death-wish rescue attempt, the group, led by Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), makes it their mission to strike the invading force where it hurts most: by taking out a bridge that is the only route of transport from the coast. Though this mission becomes the centre of attention for the group, it's the least interesting factor of the story which sees the teens changing overnight from sheltered, protected individuals with no particular fighting skills into determined soldiers. It's a subtle change but one that everyone involved struggles with and ultimately embraces.

Beattie's adaptation allows enough screen time to each character that I bought their struggles and changes though none as much as Ellie who becomes the group's de fecto leader. The character is written with depth but Stasey brings it to life with nuance and an emotional gravitas that is hard to ignore. The same is true for the rest of the cast, particularly Ashleigh Cummings who plays the religious Robyn. The moment she faces her new reality is beyond cheesy, the camera pulls back to reveal her walking beyond a child's swing – doesn't get much more obvious than that, but Cummings manages to salvage the moment. There are numerous other scenes much like this one peppered throughout Tomorrow, When the War Began and though they sometimes made me roll my eyes, the overall result is an interesting tale of survival and personal growth. A more subdued version of Red Dawn to be sure but one that feels much more believable. It'll be interesting to see how the story progresses with the second film which is currently in production.

Tomorrow, When the War Began is available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, May 1st.

DVD Extras: World premiere footage with the cast and crew, fan reactions to the film along with TV spots and a feature commentary with writer/director Stuart Beattie

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anon (10 years ago) Reply

you should rewatch red dawn. it's the same damn movie. one is not better than the other. they're both silly teenage fantasies.


votre (10 years ago) Reply

Cute idea. But it beggars belief that any group of teens (no matter how motivated) could successfully stand up to modern armed forces for more than a week at best. I can just hear young Micky Rooney saying "Hey! Why don't we stage the Resistance Movement right here!"


wa5 (10 years ago) Reply

Of course you are right, guerilla warfare could never work... cough "Vietnam" Cough...


votre (10 years ago) Reply

Of course I did say *modern* armed forces...<*cough*>... :-))

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