On the weekend, I saw a nifty Aussie flick entitled Tomorrow, When the War Began. For those who don’t know, the movie is based upon the insanely popular Tomorrow series by John Marsden. The series even has some academic cred, as it is required reading in some English syllabi around Australia.
I remember as a young un (well, not that young…I reckon I might have been finishing up high school) hearing about this Tomorrow book thing and how good it was. It took me a bit, but finally I caved and read the first book…And possibly the second…Maybe even the third. Hmm. My memory gets rather hazy around this point. I have vague recollections of holding the third book in my hands, but it might just be because I think the title is super cool (The Third Day, the Frost – how is that not cool??) and I would like to pretend like I am cool by extension.
In any event, I remembered basically nothing from these books. Cut to years (oh so many years) later and I hear there is a movie coming out based upon this series. Now, I just think this is brill. The Oz movie industry is, in my opinion, disappearing into high culture and losing touch with the masses. Oz films generally don’t make that much money and when a new one comes out most people roll their eyes and think, rightly or wrongly, well that will be a depressing adventure into existentialism. Except they might not think ‘existentialism’ or roll their eyes or in fact hear of the Oz movie at all because they are not widly promoted here in Australia.
Anyway, that’s a discussion for another day (involving my cry of ‘why on earth don’t they make a movie about AFL or Rugby or Cricket???’).
On to TWTWB. Synopsis, totally ripped from the movie’s official website:
Tomorrow, When the War Began follows the journey of eight high school friends in a coastal country town whose lives are suddenly and violently upended by an invasion that no one saw coming. Cut off from their families and their friends, these eight extraordinary teenagers must learn to escape, survive and fight back against hostile military forces.
So this movie was a nice little genre film that proves such can be made in Australia for an Australian audience AND make money. Shocking, I know. Heh. Anyhoo, the thing that struck me the most about this film was the treatment of consequence. There was no black and white. The kids of Wirrawee weren’t wholly right. The invading forces weren’t wholly wrong. There was no gung-ho shoot ‘em up style shenanigans. Each action was undertaken with seriousness and consideration for the horror of warfare and the preciousness of life.
After the first enemy soldier is killed, the main character, Ellie, is struck by how young the girl is, and how scared. The humanisation of the enemy, showing that they are people too, and have just as much right to life as our heroes, makes the audience take stock of the situation. I guess what I’m saying is death is not dealt with lightly, which is exactly as it should be. There’s a brilliant speech made by Ellie – and fair enough it’s a tad heavy handed but still effective – about how she would love to say she will fight for her beliefs and her country, but when it comes down to it what is at the base of her willingness to fight – to kill – is that she believes her life is worth more than those who would take it from her and thus she will kill them in defence of herself.
There are lots of little moments scattered through that make you think about what is happening rather than get swept away in game-like violence. A mural of the colonisation of Australia in 1788 alludes to the first settlers being an invading force. A girl stares at her destroyed home and the death of her innocence and the belief she is safe. Another girl who swore never to kill having to take up arms to save her friends. All of this is slowed down, the weight of these terrible actions laying a burden upon us all – the belief that none of this should be taken lightly.
Of course, there was then the action hero shot at the end but overall I found this movie to be a great genre piece with a bit more depth than usual. In any case, it was more believable that Angelina Jolie as a super secret agent who can kill a billion men with a handgun (but we will get to my issues with Salt another day…)
So, as Molly Meldrum would say, do yourself a favour. Check out Tomorrow, When the War Began!