You’re already hard-pressed to make a good film with a concept that is so hard to believe. A group of Australian teenagers become an impromptu guerrilla force when their nation is invaded by an unnamed Asian force in a story about growing up (fast), losing your humanity and dune buggies.
It helps that the source material, the first in a series by John Marsden, are universally well regarded. Tomorrow is a brilliant adaptation, in that it takes the core themes and characterisation of the novel, cuts away what is obvious, and comes out with something that is watchable, if not barn storming.
The comparisons with Red Dawn are to be expected, but Tomorrow is much better film. Dawn was a very pro-American shallow piece of invasion fiction, while Tomorrow has genuine depth. It’s a character study really, as we see a group of friends with the world suddenly thrust upon their shoulders, having to deal with the tangible threat of the enemy while also confronting relationship strain, the loss of innocence and family and inter-group conflict.
It helps that, unlike Red Dawn, the group are bad guerrillas, getting shot up, making mistakes, and going somewhat crazy.
The focus, naturally, is on the narrator Ellie (Caitlin Stacey), whom we see go from cheerful teenager to sleep deprived crazy person, to guerrilla leader by the end. It’s a good performance, which keeps the film going at times.
The rest of the cast does fine, but other than Ellie, Homer and Lee, they suffer from a lack of screentime to flesh themselves out. I didn’t especially care about their fates and I can’t even remember the religious ones name.
The movie has some problems with pacing. The first half hour seemed to have an almost tourism ad-style to it, while the climactic operation of the film seemed rushed. The occasional humour is fine, but sometimes seems oddly placed.
The flick also suffers from some nonsensical elements and some bizarre action sequences (the afore mentioned dune buggies being the worst offender) that seem to be thrown in simply for the sake of some explosions and gunfire. The books are not about those things, and Tomorrow might have been better off, from a critical perspective, in focusing more on the character study that it really should be. Of those sorts of scenes, the best is probably a sequence where the group are buzzed b y a searching helicopter, and must hide to avoid detection.
So, what you get is a very decent film, with some very obvious flaws. It is one of the better offerings from the invasion genre (and I daresay it will have more staying power then the upcoming remake of Red Dawn) but isn’t all it could be. I would watch a sequel though, which should speak for itself as a recommendation.