Before Dawn Review

Reviews Films


Inspired by historical war diaries, Jordan Prince-Wright’s West Australian film Before Dawn transports audiences to the harsh trenches of the Somme and beyond, 1916.

Starring Levi Millar (Pan, A Wrinkle in Time) as Jim Collins, Travis Jeffrey (Danger Close, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes) as Thomas and Myles Pollard (The Turning, Drift) as Sgt Beaufort, Before Dawn swings hard and fast. Landing more home runs than strike-outs.

Going into the cinema for this one, it’s important to remember that Before Dawn is a mostly independent film. Funded locally and shot in Western Australia. Esperance, Cue and Bunbury feature heavily, made otherworldly through expert cinematography by Daniel Quinn. The ambitious scale of re-creating the muddy corpse yard of no-man’s-land can’t be taken for granted. Prince-Wright’s direction and Jarrad Russell’s writing results in a tight, intimate tale of young men finding their character through shared trauma and adversity.

The film follows Jim, a young man from country WA who enlists to go to war. Sent to the western front, Jim and his battalion are prideful. Hoping to make a difference. However, the inhospitable, ruthless, and unforgiving nature of life in the trenches weighs heavily on Jim. Causing them all anxiety and guilt. As battalion numbers dwindle, Jim must choose between self preservation or leaving no man behind.

Western Australia isn’t known for producing cinematic genre films. However, this may change with films like Before Dawn and the upcoming studio project in Malaga. Before Dawn makes use of limited production value and emulates major Hollywood releases. There’s exciting pyrotechnic effects on display during sequences in the trenches. A few additional sequences let things down by making use of obvious digital effects, which break immersion. Some supporting performances come off lacklustre, unconvincing, and there’s some middling about an hour into the film where not a lot happens. A few arguments between characters don’t make a lot of sense either.

Of note is attention to detail. Uniform, equipment and tactics of the era are preserved and re-enacted. Right down to habitually closing one eye at night if a flare goes up.

In the scheme of things, gripes are minor and subjective. Before Dawn’s cast and crew should be celebrated for achieving the level of quality they’re reaching for, clearly a labour of love and passion project. In cinemas from tomorrow (4th April), Before Dawn blasts in with 7/10 barrages of good old-fashioned ANZAC mateship. Your grandad will love it!


Luke is writing short stories, screenplays and film reviews when he's not at the day job or looking after the needs of his family. So one Powerball...