When the War Began
When the War Began Written by John Marson, Directed by Stuart Beattie Released 2 September 2010 (Australia & New Zealand) Synopsis: Tomorrow, When the War Began is about the journey of eight high school friends in a remote country town whose lives are suddenly and violently upended by a war that no-one saw coming. Cut off from their families and their friends, these eight extraordinary teenagers must somehow learn to escape, survive and fight back. The film begins with a video log by Ellie. She asks the camera how she can tell their story.
She suggests to herself “from the beginning. ” The then story begins when Ellie Linton and her friends head up into the mountains camping for a few days in a place dubbed ‘Hell’ by the locals, and during their stay there at night they notice a number of planes flying without lights but think little of it believing it to be the air force training or heading somewhere. However when they return to their homes from their camping trip they discover that everybody is missing, their pets and livestock are dead or dying and the power, internet and telephone lines are out.
The see only lights in town come from the Hospital and the showground from the back of Robyn’s house on the edge of town. The group split up with Lee and Robyn going to Lee’s restaurant to search for his family, and Ellie, Corrie and Kevin go to see what’s at the showground. Ellie, after seeing a man get executed panics and is seen by a sentry and they are chased and shot at by the soldiers. However Ellie injuries and possibly kills three of them by blowing up a ride-on mower with Kevin’s singlet and a lighter. The three then head back to the others who stayed behind only to find Lee and Robyn still missing.
Ellie and Corrie witness an Australian F/A-18 jet fighter being shot down by unidentified aircraft. They decide to return to ‘Hell’ after they are spotted by a helicopter Homer damages, and barely escaping after Corrie’s is marked by flares and bombed by a jet fighter. That night Ellie and Homer go back into the town to and find Robyn, only to discover that Lee had been injured and was unable to walk. The three of them find Lee being treated by the local dentisy, Dr Clements who tells them the enemy are bringing supplies and troops from Cobbler’s Bay over the Wirrawee bridge.
The teens form a plan to rescue Lee in a rubbish truck shovel and are chased by a pair of armed buggies. After losing their pursuers they get to the arranged meeting place with Homer and return to Corrie’s. The group then heads back to Hell but on the way get tired and stop at a random house. It is here the group discovers Chris, another teen who was unaware of the war even happening, who joins the group. This is after Ellie yells at him for not taking the war seriously when he falls asleep on sentry duty.
The group gets back to Hell, which they plan to use as a secluded hideout. While there, they hear a radio transmission revealing Australia has been invaded by “The Coalition Nations” from nearby Asia, who believe they have right to the country’s vast natural resources to support their growing populations. The transmissions reveal three main ports are being used to deposit soldiers. One of the three is Cobbler’s Bay. With the only exit being across the Herron Bridge which the group then plans to destroy after Homer inspires them to do something about the war.
The group sneaks back to Wirrawee. Ellie and Fi steal a petrol tanker from the council depot which they then park near the bridge waiting for the others to be prepared. However when they are discovered by guards they hastily park the tanker under the bridge while Homer and Lee scare a herd of cattle across the bridge, forcing the guards to flee. Robyn, a pacifist catholic, shoots down the guards who are threatening her friends, while Chris lights the rope which acts as a fuse to the tanker, which then explodes. While the group is fleeing Corrie is shot.
Despite certain capture, Kevin decides to drive Corrie to the hospital and remain with her. The other six then return to Hell. Ellie finishes her video log revealing an ongoing guerilla war and that they are yet to be found. Character’s Journeys: Every member of the group experiences their own inner journeys through their actions taken in a now uncertain environment. However three stand out more than the others in the film. Homer becomes less rebellious and immature and becomes more of a leader in the small group of eight.
He starts off as being arrested and in his appearing scene is leaving the police station. He takes a ladder down and takes a police car of park. By the end he is serious and has become a good leader who is able to influence the others to follow him in fighting against the invaders. Ellie is the second of the three who have drastic changes in the movie. Ellie feels she has lost whatever innocence she once had, stating “we believed we were safe, that was the biggest fantasy of all” after saying how they outgrew fantasies like the Easter bunny and Santa Claus.
By the end of the film Ellie has shown she is more mature, courageous and determined to do her part in the struggle. In the beginning Ellie is a happy, cheerful adolescent who is just out camping with her friends. After she injures and possibly kills some soldiers she gradually becomes quieter, feeling bad that she valued her life above the soldiers. By the end she is beginning to fight for her friends and others who cannot and feels better about it. Another major change we can see is in that of Robyn, whose religion states that she must not kill others.
She begins her journey as a pacifist who is worried by only hurting others. In the scene where they are being chased by the armed buggies she is worried about the soldier’s safety and wouldn’t fire back even though they were shooting them. This put the whole group in danger. However by the end she realises that she will fight for her friends. While Ellie and Fi are being fired upon by coalition soldiers, Robyn shots the enemy soldiers to save her friends. This shows she values the lives of her friends as much or greater than her religion.
Once again, this link’s to Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, as the group had the choice of stating in safety and not risking their lives. This choice would be linked as the road more travelled, the path the majority would take. The other choice presented by Homer was for the group to go out there and do something about the Coalition invasion, rather than hiding away from the outside world. This is related to the road less travelled, for those who are more courageous and want to experience the things that other’s generally wouldn’t.
Stylistic Features: Metaphor: One metaphor is that of the labeling the camping area in the mountains where the group stay as ‘Hell’. The locals say it is hell because it is rugged, wild, unknown and uncivilized. But the term is really rather badly placed as the group finds out when they arrive. Edited Effects: Such as the explosions like the truck, fight scenes like on the bridge and chase scenes like in the dump truck, add a massive feature to the film giving it a drastically heightened drama and action packed movie.
Oxymoron: The labeling of their camping place as ‘Hell’ is like an oxymoron in the sense that Hell is a desolate, rugged, destructive place. But the locally dubbed ‘Hell’ is the complete opposite being a thriving, natural and peaceful environment. This is discovered by the group when they find their own little part of ‘hell’, with a pond, waterfall, and a sub tropical rainforest environment. Humour: The film makes very effective and efficient usage of humour in the film, largely through the rebellious Homer. In his opening scene we see him disrespecting police officers and exiting the police station.
Also scenes like on top of the water fall quoting Gandalf from “Lord of the Rings” and after Lee saved Ellie from the snake, while Homer states “yeah I was just about to do that”. There are other scenes when he states things bland and straight forward before thinking “Hey Ellie, what’s up with your dog” when they found it dead. Symbolism: The film uses techniques like symbolism to represent a characters status or position in the storyline. E. g. Ellie was chosen to appear I the first scene, because she is the main protagonist, so the director wants the viewer to be informed about her first of all, with her having a video ecording about the series of unfortunate events that make up the whole rest of the series. Tone: The film uses tone as a major role in the Stylistic Features. Rather than just rambling on the characters speak in tone which sets suspense and gives the viewer a greater sense of actually being there physically with the group. This is effective as it links the viewer more intimately with the story and its characters. An example is – “We’ve learnt a lot and had to figure out what’s important- what matters, what really matters. ”- Ellie.
This sets a kind of serious, melodramatic sense, hinting that they’ve overcome difficulties (e. g. Robyn’s religion) and will help their friends wherever possible. Camera Techniques: The film has effective use of camera angles zooms etc. The film uses close ups more in the beginning to get used to each of the characters. However as the film gradually progresses there are less close ups, as they are generally focusing on the group as a whole rather than each individual. This promotes the sense of camaraderie the group holds and that they are all protagonists in their own right.
Long shots are used effectively when viewing things like the bridge and the showground. Music: Music is used in the movie often. The music can be soft and subtle, emanating a sense of peace and serenity, such as while at ‘Hell’. There are other scenes when they play dramatic and action songs used to either build suspense or dramatize a scene. Language: The group as a whole, with the exclusion of those like Ellie who always corrects people for saying “lee and me” etc, have a fairly standard Australian language with a few rural colloquial expressions.
All around though they are represented as typical Australian teenagers. Purpose: The purpose of having the teenagers have a journey is to represent how a war or conflict will uproot your life, and that if you don’t take risks (the road less travelled) you will endanger yourself. Homer – “the biggest risk, is not to take any risk at all” This links with Homer’s statement as quoted above. The journeys represent how people can change through the experiences they have, and the obstacles they must overcome. They face unexpected adversary and come out better for it self-consciously.
I believe the film was great, there were good effects and sound editing to match the mood of the scene. The cast played their roles extremely well and the editing and effects/stunts were all really good. The Journeys of the characters, particularly Ellie and Homer were really well played out, and you can visually see the difference in confidence, stature etc. Quotes: Ellie Linton: Good book? Corrie Mackenzie: Better than the movie. Ellie Linton: Yeah, books usually are. I added this quote as I believe it is referring to the “Tomorrow” series also as a sort of inside joke.
Ellie Linton: [when they find a red-bellied black snake in a sleeping bag] Well, shake it. [Homer shakes his arse] Ellie Linton: The bag Beyonce! This represents Homer as he was rebellious and humorous at the beginning of the story. Ellie Linton – “at that moment I stopped being an innocent rural teenager and started becoming someone else, a more complicated and capable person. ” This shows Ellie as she begins to mature due to her recent experiences, and the surroundings and challenges she has overcome. – By Chris Koren