Tomorrow, When The War Began
One of the greatest things about the incredible availability of films on disc and digital steaming is being able to build a library of movies that formerly could only be possible in a university or sizable library. Several factors compel me to delve into the recesses of mine, boredom with what’s current, and nostalgia or, as in this case, research. I began working on my upcoming review of the ‘Red Dawn’ remake and after watch that film unbiased the original. While I was in the neighborhood I found my copy of a similar movie from down under, the Australian film, ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began’. The theme in all of these movies is virtually identical; kids are out of town camping when a hostile foreign nation invades their country. These teenagers are forced to grow up fast, band together and save their nation. In some ways it is a ridiculous idea that a rag tag group of high school students could wage war against an highly organized sovereign nation but keep in mind many of the soldiers fighting in the American Revolutionary War were of an age that would today place them in a high school home room; they took up meager arms against the largest military might on the face of the globe, successfully. This historical fact justifies the jingoistic feeling that drives the special place with the audience occupied by the original ‘Red Dawn’ movie and most likely its remake. What I found exceedingly interesting is watching the same story played out in another country, one with a different past and progression to a national identity than ours. This movie was one of the most popular in Australia for 2010 topping the box office charts there. This indicates that the fear of invasion is not a concept restricted to The United States, particularly among the Western block. Even a population culturally different from ours can experience concerns that coincide with the ones felt here. For some this might offer a unique opportunity for film buffs top broaden out their scope and juxtapose the same fundamental premise filtered through the prism of different social influences,
A contemporary feel is fostered in the film by having the main character, high school student Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey), starting a video log. This is a relatively new method of narration, one that instills a highly personalized voice to telling the story. It is also something familiar to the teens of today with the predilection to fully document their lives. She originally was on a camping trip to the forested area not far from her coastal hometown of Wirrawee. Accompanying her is her childhood friend, Corrie Mackenzie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), Corrie’s boyfriend, Kevin Holmes (Lincoln Lewis). Also in the group of friends is Ellie’s next door neighbor, Homer Yannos (Deniz Akdeniz), Lee Takkam (Chris Pang), a boy Homer likes and a couple of other teenagers in their social circle, Robyn Mathers (Ashleigh Cummings) and Fiona Maxwell (Phoebe Tonkin). For transportation they have access to Ellie's parents' Land Rover. Once deep into the reserve they hike down to an especially remote and bleak area.
During the first night of camping the peaceful Australian night sky is disrupted by the ominous sight of military aircraft filling the sky. They quietly make their way back to Wirrawee to find darkness with the noticeable exception of the hospital and the town’s parade ground. Probing deeper the see the townsfolk have been rounded up and detained in the field. A foreign military force has taken control of their town. The blatant hostility of the invaders is brutally demonstrated one of the hostages is summarily executed; shot in the head. The group of friends attempt to retreat to the relative safety of the outskirts of town but are spotted and pursued by a squad of enemy troops. Thinking quickly they fashion an IED from a fuel tank and lighter dispatching the enemy. This slams home the reality of their situation; they are alone in hostile territory and have to fight to the death to survive. On the way back to their remote campsite they pick up Chris Lang (Andrew Ryan), a stoner oblivious to current events. They bring him along. A radio transmission fills in the broad strokes of their predicament. The Coalition Nations, an Asian based alliance has invaded and are using port cities to land their troops en masse. A mission to disrupt enemy movement by blowing up a bridge necessary to the invaders’ plans is fraught with danger and casualties but by the end the return to their base. Ellie is again speaking to her video log stating their determination to continue their guerilla war against the Coalition.
In a way similar to the State side incarnation the emphasis is on the resourcefulness of the young people. Adults have a natural propensity hold a dismissive attitude towards the teenage generation. A film like this reminds us that the youth have the potential to rise to any occasion given the right set of circumstances. This is naturally enough popular with the teens in the audience but there is a vicarious thrill that is sufficiently forceful to infect older viewers. After all the foundation of this movie is the oldest theme in story telling predating the written word; the triumph of good over evil. In this regard there is a classic appeal to the film, one echoed in most mythological systems and throughout the folklore of most civilizations. The youth of a society traditionally represents the vitality of a nation; the determination to remain free. The proceeding as depicted in this film exhibits the universality of this premise.
The film was taken from a series of popular novels targeted towards a teen audience. This does result in the end of this film conducive to a sequel that is already in production. This film is an action oriented look at the unending fight for freedom. The movie is well crafted and nicely paced by filmmaker, Stuart Beattie. He also authored the screenplay based by the inaugural novel from John Marsden. Beattie has been active in both hemispheres penning flicks like ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’, ‘30 Days of Night’ and the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.