With the world all a buzz with adaptations of young adult novels after adaptations of young adult novels, one of the most intriguing Y.A. novel franchises has finally seen its first feature film version, and while it’s not brilliant, it blows a many films of its ilk out of the water.
Thanks to director Stuart Beattie (best known for his work as a writer on a cavalcade of Hollywood action flicks like ‘˜G.I. Joe’ and ‘˜Collateral,’ the first book in the beloved series of novels penned by John Marsden, a book entitled ‘˜Tomorrow When The War Began,’ has hit the big screen. Coming out of Australia, the film has now hit VOD stateside after a run in other markets starting in the summer of last year, and is definitely one of the more intriguing indie actioners to come around in some time.
The film follows the story of Ellie, one of the members of a group of young people who after going on a camping trip, discover that the civilization that they are proverbially returning to has changed. Their hometown has been invaded by an outside force, and these young adults are forced to fight for their lives and freedom in this new hellacious landscape.
Structurally, the film opens with a video from Ellie, giving the audience a great and deep sense of impending doom. Following that with a really solid introduction into Ellie’s seemingly normal and fulfilling life, featuring loving family members and a great deal of friends, the film is jarring in its tone, something that when the fan is hit by some stuff, makes the change of mood all the more effective.
Caitlin Stasey is great here as Ellie, a stunningly gorgeous brunette who becomes the leader of the group during the film’s final half. She plays the strong leader really well, but during a few sequences, you realize that this change of world landscape has taken a toll on her psyche as much as the next person. Rachel Hurd-Wood is fine here as her friend Corrie, as is the film’s supporting cast, particularly the likes of Lincoln Lewis and Chris Pang. Really, this is a character-based action film, something resembling a less campy but oddly equally jingoistic Aussie version of ‘˜Red Dawn,’ and each of these characters not only have their own moments, but become their own entities, something most films can’t really say.
Beattie is oddly both the film’s strongest suit, and its weakest link. Script wise, the film is top notch. Each character has their own little arch, and ultimately feels far more flesh and bone than many modern action films. However, the action sequences of this film are oddly bombastic and the geography of these sequences becomes blurred by poor cinematography and even odder choreography. The film could have stood to be a tad bit longer to make the tonal shift seem less jarring, but Beattie as a director could have also stood to allow each set piece to breathe just a tad bit.
Overall, ‘˜Tomorrow When The War Began’ is an action piece that should be seen. With a fine budget behind the project, director Stuart Beattie, also the writer of the film’s script, has crafted a fine character study of a group of young adults forced to come of age in a world that they didn’t understand in the first place, a world that has just been turned upside down by an existential crisis. With a great cast giving great performances, the film is a little gem of an Aussie film that is ultimately undone by poor pacing, oddly uninteresting action, and a director unsure of just what film he wants to craft here. VOD is truly the best, and only way, this film should be seen.