Tomorrow When the War Began poster

This month’s book club pick is John Marsden’s 1993 novel Tomorrow, When the War Began. In 2010 a film adaptation was released written and directed by experienced screenwriter Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Collateral, Australia).

Former Neighbours actress Caitlin Stasey leads the cast as Ellie and delivers a strong performance. The remaining teens do at the beginning feel a bit like teen movie archetypes: best friend Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), her jock boyfriend Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), rebellious Greek Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), hardworking Asian student and restaurant worker Lee (Chris Pang), sensible church going Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings), townie Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin) and stoner Chris (Andy Ryan).

Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin), Lee (Chris Pang), Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings)

Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin), Lee (Chris Pang), Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings)

Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin)

Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin)

Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings)

Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings)

Beattie like Marsden does not identify the military force invading the town, which means the focus is on the young cast. Veteran Australian actor Colin Friels briefly appears as a dentist who helps the teens after Lee is wounded, but after patching up Lee he makes it clear the teens are on their own.

The film is a reasonably faithful adaptation of the book. Beattie modernised the script with references to technology. Rather than recording the history in a journal Ellie speaks directly to camera, the characters also have mobile phones and internet. When they return to Wirrawee cell towers and internet are out. This modernisation works for the film.

The filmmakers put a lot of effort into the action, special effects and stunt sequences. At times it feels like it is trying to hard to be a Hollywood action blockbuster. As a result internationally it received critical reviews and unfavourable comparisons to the 1984 film Red Dawn.

Overall fans of the book will be pleased.

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