‘Ellie and her friends never thought their quiet country life would ever change much. Heading into their last year of high school, they decide to camp for the weekend in a remote bush clearing. When they return, their parents have disappeared, their phones are dead, and all power is out. Soon, the horrible realisation becomes all too clear – while they were away, thousands of foreign soldiers invaded their country. The war has begun. Now Ellie and her seven friends must band together to stay alive…and fight back. TOMORROW WHEN THE WAR BEGAN is based on the best-selling series of novels by John Marsden, and is written and directed by Stuart Beattie (who also wrote Collateral, Pirates of the Caribbean, Australia and more).’

As an avid reader of John Marsden books, I am familiar with the ‘Tomorrow when the War Began’ series. I would even go as far as to say that once upon a time, I was obsessed. I wrote John Marsden himself a letter, asking if the popular Tomorrow series would ever be turned into a movie, or movies. I was well-chuffed when I received a letter back from him, saying that there were currently no plans, but that he would keep an eye out. That was over a decade ago, and I still have the laminated letter to prove it! So, I must say that I was super keen to see this film the moment I heard that it was in production. Today was the day that I finally saw the book brought to life.

As the film began, I found myself hoping that the movie would stay true to the book, and praying that I would leave the cinema satisfied. The movie exceeded my expectations, I am satisfied.

Ellie (Caitlin Stasey) and six of her mates want to go ‘further than they ever have before’, on a weeklong camping trip. They decide to head away from their small-close-knit- rural town, Wirrawee, and head for the bush, to a place they call ‘Hell’. They leave their town as carefree young adults, eager to explore and experience the world. When they return home to discover their abandoned homes and missing parents, they are forced to grow up rapidly. They find a new kind of hell, a place in which they are alone, scared and unsure of their future.

A foreign army has taken control of their town, and the whole of Australia for all that they know. The group have no choice but to fend for themselves, face their fears, and fight back against the unknown enemy. Will they be successful? Those who have read the book know the answer. Those who haven’t…will just have to go out and see it for themselves.

It was wonderful to see a good quality Australian movie. It was refreshing to hear the Aussie accent on the big screen, and see the actors minus the overdone make-up. The film did a great job of capturing the country vibe, and the mateship that Australia is famous for. The books never stated which nation the occupying force belonged to, and I was curious to see how the film-makers would get around that. True to the book, the enemy’s identity is never revealed. I liked that.

The cast did an excellent job of portraying their characters, which led me to believe that they had all done their research and read the book, which was nice. The well-executed-sweeping camera shots captured the magnificent Australian bush, and should do wonders for tourism if the film is successful on an International scale. Some fantastic songs were scattered throughout the film; Missy Higgins, Sarah Blasko, and a myriad of other talented Aussie musicians added to the film. I am not sure if a soundtrack is going to be released, but it should be!

There was only one scene that didn’t sit well with me, and it involved two of the girls partaking in (what I consider to be) meaningless and trivial gossip, at an incredibly inopportune time. It made me squirm in my seat, as it made the girls look silly, and insensitive towards their town’s situation.  It ticks all the boxes of a good action flick. Drama; tick. Suspense; tick. Romance; tick. Car chases; tick. Shooting and stuff getting blown up; tick.

There was a whole lot of action compressed into a small time frame, which was a tad overwhelming, and I guess is the difference between a book and a movie. I felt that there wasn’t enough time to develop all of the characters, and because of that, the characters seemed a bit emotionally stunted. However, there are seven books in the series, plus another three separate books that Marsden published four years later, so… I guess we will just have to wait and see how far they take it. Ten movies would be plenty of room to develop the characters!  

This is a great film, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

I give this movie four out of five stars.

‘Tomorrow When the War Began Hits Australian Cinema’s on the 2nd September…. You can also check out my Interview with one of the stars Deniz Akdeniz Here.