I was lucky enough to attend the world premiere of "Tomorrow When the War Began" yesterday evening and I have to say I was blown away. There were a few flaws, but overall it was an absolutely brilliant experience.
The film tells the story of seven teenagers who go away on a camping trip and return to discover that a foreign army has invaded their home and imprisoned their families, and how they cope with this – and also how they fight back to save everything they care about.
Soon after the film begins, we are drawn into the world of Wirrawee (actually Raymond Terrace in country NSW), the small country town where these teenagers have lived their whole lives in. Ellie (Caitlin Stasey), our heroine, is called out to her best friend Corrie's (Rachel Hurd-Wood) house for exciting news, and from there the two girls plan to invite friends on a trip into the wild unknown. As the story unfolds from here, we are given clear insights into the characters' lives and personalities, and the sense of atmosphere that we get is incredible – the relationships between all these characters are believable and already the production design is highly impressive.
This film, to me, is split into two halves. The first half is light-hearted and hugely funny as we get to know all the characters, and at this point, I should name them – Corrie's boyfriend, Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), the wild man of the group, Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin), better known as Fi, the princess, Lee (Chris Pang), the quiet, introverted one, Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings), who has strong religious convictions, and later we meet Chris (Andy Ryan), who is perpetually stoned and is either, in his portrayer's words "highly intelligent ", or "highly stupid", depending on who you ask. Romances are blooming all over the place and there is just a general sense of fun.
The second half, when the gang returns home and sees what has happened is much more serious, although we still do get a few laughs here and there. It is filled with action – wild, tension-filled chases in trucks and enormous, breathtaking explosions. However, despite the blockbuster-style action sequences, this is definitely not your typical Hollywood movie where things get blown up and nobody cares. These characters are real people – they fight with each other, they have to make incredibly hard life-and-death decisions that are in direct opposition to the values they have carried their whole lives, and, perhaps most believable of all, they question the ethics of what they have to do to survive. As Ellie asks the group at one point, "How many people do I have to kill to keep myself alive?" Not your bog-standard Hollywood blockbuster, huh? The film also has something to say on the age-old topic of book-to-film adaptations, and it was agreed by the characters who discuss this that "the books are better", which the audience found greatly amusing. I must say a word on the casting because it was absolutely top-notch in every case. However, I have to give special props to Caitlin Stasey and Deniz Akdeniz for their extraordinary portrayals in this film. Caitlin is almost exactly as the book describes Ellie – a seemingly ordinary girl who goes on to do incredibly brave things and yet still doubts that what she is doing is right. It was an amazing performance, full of gusto and real emotion. Good on you, Caitlin! Deniz Akdeniz is also incredible as Homer. Homer starts off as a troublemaker and "class clown" type, never taking anything too seriously and a lover of pulling pranks on his friends. However, when the group become fugitives, Homer begins to show his serious side, demonstrating qualities of strong leadership and organisation. Deniz was able to portray both sides of Homer wonderfully and if he doesn't become a star after this movie is officially released then I will be very surprised. He also seemed to be the audience favourite too! The production values, photography and visual effects are also outstanding, and a huge congratulations go to the crew for pulling it off so beautifully.
Overall, this is an incredibly powerful and thought-provoking film and I strongly encourage everyone who reads this review to see it if it comes out in your area.
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