Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Movie Review: Tomorrow, When the War Began

Title: Tomorrow, When the War Began
Author: Caitlin Stasey (Lady Kenna in Reign series), Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, etc. Basically people I recognized by face, but not name. All with awesome Australian accents.
Release Date: 2010
Genre: war, drama, romance, coming of age, action, adventure, survival
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: R (according to IMDb, but that seems a little high, which is odd given MPAA ratings tend to be too low in my opinion); proposed rating: PG-13
Age Group: 16+ (could be 14+ if not for mention of teens having sex)

Seven unlikely friends go camping in the beautiful wilderness of their native Australia. Two best friends from childhood, a boyfriend, the rich (but sweet) girl, the town trouble-maker, the boy whose family owns a restaurant, and a church girl (because the parents wanted 8 to go, but they decided 7 would be fine as long as one was a church girl--keep them all in line and whatnot).
They're having a great time on their last big hurray before graduation and moving on to bigger responsibilities. Sure, there are deadly snakes and they have to hunt rabbits, but really, small price to pay for such a great adventure.
Then they go home. And no one is there. The kids eventually learn Australia has been invaded and everyone has been rounded up into camps. Trying to avoid being killed themselves, the kids flee back to their campsite, bringing along yet another unlikely member (a sweet guy who smokes pot).
Guilt eats at them. Finally, they decide to wage guerrilla warfare on the enemy until help comes.

Word of Warning

As noted above, I find the MPAA rating a little high. Granted, I advised the movie not be watched by anyone younger than 16 (mainly because of my first bullet point below), but I am used to MPAA ratings being a bit young. What I see in this movie is horrible, yes, because it is war, but not what I've seen in the very few R rated movies I've seen.
  •  Two girls at the beginning of the movie talk about sex. There is nothing graphic. One girl says she and her boyfriend did it, and the other girl responds. Both seem excited, and nothing negative is said.
  • Clothing. Low cut shirts, short shorts, and a girl wearing a bikini (a guy ogles her unashamedly).
  • Kissing. The couple mentioned above is seen kissing a few times. One girl says she kissed a member of the group and claims he is "a really good kisser." Another kiss is shown that starts to get passionate (and, quite honestly, is grossly loud with headphones on).
  • Injuries. One kid gets shot in the leg (we don't see it, only blood, and the healing is fast). A girl cuts her leg pretty badly. One kid is shot in the abdomen and is rushed to a hospital (that is the last we see of this character). A person is shot through the head, scene is a far-off shot but still very disturbing.
  • This is war. There are guns, people get shot at (and hit sometimes), buildings are bombed, and things blow up. The kids barely escape more than once.
  • In a heartbreaking scene the most innocent of the group mows down three enemy soldiers with a semi-automatic to save other members of the group.
  • One character lights a stick on fire and causes an explosion that lights several enemy soldiers on fire. We see one soldier in a close-up, her face melted, and she presumably dies. The character who caused the explosion rightfully has a very hard time getting over this.
  • A dead dog is shown, eye clouded, flies buzzing about. I realize in the grand scheme of this movie, this really isn't a big deal. But the scene is disturbing and startling based on where it is put in the movie.
  • A car chase involving a garbage truck and two to three little zippy cars (no clue what to call them). Cars blow up and flip and the chase is rather harrowing. It's also a good point, because really, a garbage truck and speedy car chase?
  • One character smokes pot. In one scene he talks about being stoned, but he's clearly still high.
  • Kids lie to their parents, particularly a religious figure.
  • Language. I didn't write down the words or the numbers. I hadn't even intended to review the movie originally. Basically, if you deem the other stuff in this list appropriate, the language content should be fine too.

My Thoughts
The movie took a little while to get anywhere, which frustrated me. Then again, they were dealing with seven (then eight) characters, so I can understand why it took a little while to establish any character development. When it does come, I appreciated the raw look at killing and how it changes the soul. The poor teens propose different views of this but ultimately cannot come to a conclusion: only that it seems to be necessary given the circumstances, and that it's awful. Who gets to decide who dies? Why is one person's life more valuable than another? Good moral questions, and the movie does not shy away from them.
My biggest objection (aside from the completely unnecessary mention of sexual intimacy at the beginning, and the apparent glorification of it) is the ending.
Which simply isn't.
I realize this is a movie based on a book series by John Marsden, and this is probably how the first book ended. But still. If you watch it, you'll see what I mean. However, don't avoid the movie just because of the dissatisfying ending.

Fun Quote:
"That a good book?"
"Yes. Better than the movie."
"Books always are."

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