Based on the series of seven books by John Marsden, which have sold more than 2.5 million copies and been translated into seven languages, Tomorrow, When The War Began unfolds from the perspective of eight plucky teenagers caught up in an unimaginable conflict.
The protagonists must tap into reserves of courage they never knew they had to repel heavily armed military forces.
Writer-director Stuart Beattie, who penned the scripts to the Pirates Of The Caribbean films and Collateral, understands how to craft a thrilling action sequence and he doesn’t disappoint, putting the pedal to the metal for a crunching chase in a garbage truck.
‘You are dangerous!’ squeals the girl in the passenger seat as cars fly though the air.
‘That’s what my driving instructor said,’ smirks the driver.
It’s a welcome moment of humour to dissipate the tension of the sacrifices and bloodshed to come.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie (Caitlin Stasey) asks her parents if she can borrow the family Land Rover so she can drive her friends to a remote sinkhole known as ‘Hell’ for one final hurrah before the school holidays end.
Best friend Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her jock boyfriend Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), beauty queen Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin), joker Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), devoutly religious Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings) and classmate Lee (Chris Pang), whose parents run the local Thai restaurant, head into the wilderness.
They set up camp at ‘Hell’ which boasts a stream and waterfall, as well as venomous critters that could crawl inside an inviting sleeping bag.
When they return to their hometown of Wirrawee, they discover an invading military force has rounded up the entire population.
The youngsters vow to overcome insurmountable odds to reclaim Wirrawee and rescue their parents, aided by apathetic stoner Chris (Andrew Ryan).
Tomorrow, When The War Began sows the seeds for successive films in the series.
Dialogue teasingly hints at escapades to come – ‘For now we were free but we had done nothing to earn our freedom. Not yet anyway...’ – and Beattie makes clear that any of his main characters could be killed in their pursuit of freedom.
Indeed, at least two of the cast are walking wounded by the time the end credits roll.
The actors are largely unknown on these shores but they deliver strong performances, anchored by Stasey, who stares at the face of a dead enemy soldier and realises she has just killed a girl. We suspect that Ellie and perhaps some of her friends may suffer a similar fate before the saga ends.