The Australian film "Tomorrow When the War Began" might be best described as "Red Dawn" meets "Home and Away". The acting is not great, the characters are too well groomed for a group of guerrilla fighters and the plot is silly and the action sequences just lest than credible.
The movie is based on the first book in John Marsden's series "Tomorrow, When the War Began". The plot has an invasion of a Australian country town by an unidentified Asian military force. A group of teenagers escape to the hills and begin a guerrilla campaign. If the plot sounds familiar, it is essentially the same as Red Dawn, except in that case the teenagers were in a southern USA town.
I found Marsden's book very slow going and did not more than a third of the way through (perhaps because I am not in the intended teenage readership). The film is much more fast paced, getting the war underway more quickly. However, the main character and self-appointed leader of the
guerrilla group is just as annoying in the film as the book.
The teenagers are impossibly well groomed for guerrilla fighters, looking more like extras from the TV teenage soap opera "Home and Away". The woodenness of the acting is brought in to sharp contrast by the all too brief appearance of Colin Friels, who has more screen presence even when not speaking or moving, than the rest of the cast in their most active scene.
The action sequences are impressive but just a little too action packed to be credible. At one point the the fuel tank of a ride-on mower explodes with incredible force. In another scene the teenagers in a dump truck out maneuvers two Light Strike Vehicles.
The sets are very well done, depicting a typical country town. The military vehicles and equipment are also very credible. The soldiers uniforms and personal equipment look realistic without being recognizable as from any current army. The soldiers wear helmets with a flared rear lip, reminisent of a Japanese samurai.
Some of the plot of the film makes little sense. In one scene a helicopter with searchlight looks for the teenagers hiding in a deserted house. Rather than lying on the floor well away from the windows and remain motionless, the teenagers stand next to the windows and move from window to window. After one teenager shoots out the searchlight with one burst from an assault rifle, the helicopter fires flares to mark the target (which is credible), but then a ground attack aircraft appears withing seconds to bomb it (which is not credible). Also the teenagers escape to a large barn which is only a few tens of meters from the house but is not attacked.
There are several more books in Marsden's series, but rather than film sequels, this night be good material for a TV series. They would be more credible than the "Last Resort" TV series currently being shown on Australian free-to-air TV.
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