Film & TV Reviews

FILM REVIEW: Tomorrow, When the War Began

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.

Book Club Pick

Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

Book Club Pick: November 2015

Tomorrow When The War Begins

Book Details:

Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began

Author: John Marsden

Series: Tomorrow series (Book #1)

Country: Australia

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Publishers Australia

First Published: 1993

Pages: 286

Publisher’s Description:

The astonishing adventure begins . . .

Seventeen-year-old Ellie Linton wants one final adventure with her friends before the school holidays are over. Packed in Ellie’s parents’ Land-Rover, they drive to a famously beautiful camp in the hills.

Returning to their home town of Wirrawee, the seven teenagers realize that something is seriously wrong. Their world has changed forever.

Would you give up everything? Would you fight? Would you sacrifice life itself?

TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN asks the questions you may one day have to answer.



The novel is narrated by seventeen-year-old Ellie Linton as she documents in a journal her experiences during a military invasion and occupation of Australia.

Tomorrow, When the War Began takes place in the fictional small rural Australian town of Wirrawee. Ellie and her high school friends Corrie, Homer, Lee, Kevin, Fiona and Robyn wanting one last adventure set out to go camping in a remote area of the bush dubbed by locals as ‘Hell’.

One night they see a large number of planes flying overhead without lights. Although they discuss this the next morning they think nothing more of it. When they return to Wirrawee they find the town is deserted, as they return to each of their homes they find their parents are missing, power is out, and pets and livestock are dying.

The group soon learns that Australia has been occupied by unidentified foreign military force and their families have been taken prisoner. Marsden deliberately does not identify the country or countries invading Australia nor does the novel cover the war from outside Ellie’s perspective other than what she learns through her friends.

This novel is not about war, it is about how eight* young Australians react to war. *Fellow student Chris joins the seven following the invasion.

Marsden was watching an ANZAC Day parade and observed a large number of teenagers present. He wondered how they would react if they were in the same position as their grandparents. Marsden believed that today’s teenagers would “dig deep and find reserves of initiative, maturity, responsibility and even heroism”. He also wrote Tomorrow, When the War Began as a response to the negative representation of teenagers in the media.

Although the novel does feature violence, it is not graphic in its portrayal of the horrors of war. It focuses more on the characters internal struggles, such as Ellie battling with having to take someone else’s life in order to defend her own. The novel does feature some romance between the teenagers as Ellie develops feelings for Lee, Homer is smitten with Fi, and Corrie and Kevin continue their relationship. Ellie writes the journal as an official record of their experiences, rather than a personal diary, so her personal feelings of romance do seem a little out of place. It would be quite awkward for Lee to read this official record I would imagine.

The novel was released in 1993 and other than that today the characters would have mobile phones and wireless internet connections it has not dated.

In 2010 a film adaptation written and directed by screenwriter Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Collateral, Australia) was released. A television adaptation is currently in post production and will screen on ABC3 in Australia in 2016.

Tomorrow When the War Began poster


John Marsden Official Website

John Marsden on Facebook



Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.