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:: Tomorrow When The War Began

It’s been on the cards for a while now, but it seems that ‘Tomorrow When The War Began’ might finally be the film that makes the Australian Film Industry come of age. Experts have been saying for a while now that Australia needs to make genre films that look equal to what America is producing, and it seems that director/screenwriter Stuart Beattie may have been able to achieve that goal… all without losing any of the unique Australiana feel that is so special to the Australian public.

Taken from John Marsden’s novel of the same name ‘Tomorrow When The War Began’ is told through the eyes of country girl, Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey) who decides to go on an end-of-school-holiday trip with her friends. Along with her best friend - Corrie Mackenzie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), her ‘brother’ - Homer Yannos (Deniz Akdeniz), the boy she likes – Lee Takkam (Chris Pang), the religious Robyn Mathers (Ashleigh Cummings), the princess – Fiona Maxwell (Phoebe Tonkin) and Corrie’s boyfriend – Kevin Homes (Lincoln Lewis) they head off down the river. But after hearing military aircraft overhead they return home to find out that their quite country town (and the rest of Australia) has been invaded by an Asian army. They find most of their friends and family have been taken captive, so along with Chris Lang (Andrew Ryan) they form a ‘guerilla group’ that plans on fighting back.

Beattie does a sensational job creating what has become an excellent action film. My biggest fear about this film was that you would forget you were watching an Australian film, but Beattie has managed to mix some uniquely Australian teenagers, with a typical Australian town and then add the gloss and special effects of an American film in a way that I never thought be possible. The films story sucks you in and the screenplay manages to pay equal time to all the main characters… no mean feat seeing there are eight characters. You come to know and love all eight of them… which in turn adds a new element to the film – you actually care when they live or die so at times you will find yourself on the edge of your seat and praying for the best outcome. A well-written script keeps the film believable, and while Beattie shows that this film is a metaphor for the European invasion that Australian Aboriginals had to endure he doesn’t ram this thought down his audience’s throat.

One big question I had before entering the cinema was – would the special effects look cheap because they were Australian? The answer is no, there is even a mid-air fighter jet dog-fight that looks alarmingly realistic. Major explosions and car chases all come up the screen exceptionally well and at times it is seriously hard to believe that Beattie is a first-time director. It is obvious that he has put his ‘creative-writing’ brain into top gear when envisaging how this film will look.

At times early on in the film the acting does look a little shaky but as the dramatic tension rises so to does the acting ability. Not surprisingly Caitlin Stasey is a standout – perhaps thanks to the fact that she had some great experience playing the troubled Rachel Kinski in ‘Neighbours’ for such an extended time. But even she is overshadowed by a brilliant performance by Andrew Ryan who steals the show with a ‘stoned’ monologue by his character Chris. Also sensational are Deniz Akdeniz and newcomer Chris Pang. The cast gel well together and are extremely believable as a group of friends.

To be honest the only time I was disappointed while watching the film was when the final credits started… and I was only disappointed then because I just didn’t want it to end. The acting, the script and soundtrack all work well and result in an enjoyable action flick. Take your hat off Stuart Beattie, you have managed to create one of the best Australian films of all time.