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Stuart Beattie is a rare figure in the Australian film industry: an Aussie who moved to America and made a living in Hollywood as a writer for large scale films bankrolled by major production studios. His credits include the Oscar-winning Collateral (2003), Derailed (2005), 30 Days of Night (2007) and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Beattie returned home to make his first film as director, Tomorrow, When the War Began, shooting from a screenplay he adapted from John Marsden’s widely adored novel for teens and young adults, which imagines Australia has been invaded by a foreign power and follows a group of teenagers as they fight to ta-ta-take the power back.

Marsden was reportedly tickled pink by Beattie’s adaptation, and he wasn’t the only one to give it a thumbs up. I found the film fast paced, engaging and – perhaps most pertinently, given this was my primary concern – not too heavy on cheesy adolescent drama. At the time of writing the film is cruising on an 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The public dig it too. Tomorrow, When the War Began had a monster opening weekend, chalking up $2.5 million, which makes it the third biggest opening of all time for an Australian film. It looks set to be remembered as an Aussie classic, just like the book.

On the promotional tour, Beattie took time out to sit down for a yak with Cinetology about some of the issues involved with bringing the film to life – including responsibly handling such a highly regarded source material and grappling with the disparaging knowledge that film adaptations are generally regarded as lesser works than their literary origins. Continue reading “Interview with Stuart Beattie, writer/director of Tomorrow, When the War Began”

tomorrowwarbeganGreen lightAuthor John Marsden’s Australian invasion novel Tomorrow, When the War Began has been gobbled up like corn chips and adored by teens and young adults since it hit the shelves in the early 90’s.

The book generated record sales, six sequels, endless speculation about the nationality of the invaders (Marsden never named names) and now a slick big screen adaptation from Aussie writer/director Stuart Beattie, who has big budget bona fides as the writer of Michael Mann’s terrific one-night-from-hell LA thriller Collateral and a contributing scribe to Hollywood franchises such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

This marks Beattie’s first film as a director. There’s no doubt watching how his words have been shaped into showy multiplex movie’s has taught him some tricks of the trade over the years – particularly how to employ polished cinematography and maintain a cracking pace.

The story tracks a group of high school students from the small town of Wirrawee who go on a week-long camping trip to “Hell” – not the place with flames, pitchforks and Stan Zemanek but a beautiful remote location that looks like something straight out of a shampoo commercial.

Dozens of military planes fly over one night and when the young’uns return to town things have sure taken a turn for the worse: the dogs are dead, mum and dad are nowhere to be seen and the town is eerily silent. It’s been invaded by a foreign power, residents herded into a makeshift concentration camp. A couple of impromptu meeting later these (pimple free) pubescent peeps decide – natch – to grab some munitions and ta-ta take the power back. Continue reading “Tomorrow, When the War Began movie review: on track to become an Aussie classic”

Tomorrow When the War Began

The first half of the teaser trailer (watch it below) for writer/director Stuart Beattie’s highly anticipated big screen adaptation of Australian author John Marsden’s well-loved novel Tomorrow, When the War Began plays like a shampoo commercial: there are picturesque images of cliff faces, countryside and rain forests, cheesy top 20 music and shots of young toned bods frolicking in water interspersed with captions such as “A PLACE TO ESCAPE” and “A PERFECT TIME.”

Just as audiences may resign themselves to the proverbial barf bag the trailer then takes a spectacular 180: a vision of war planes dots a night time skyline, quickly followed by running, explosions, panic, exclamations of “no dial tone,” “what is going on?” and “run!” as the soundtrack hits fever pitch. Australia has been invaded by a foreign power and the group, led by Ellie Linton (Caitlin Stasey), become a small guerrilla outfit fighting against enemy soldiers in their small (fictional) town of Wirrawee.

In the book Marsden does not assign a particular ethnicity to the invaders, though they are widely interpreted to be Chinese. Obscuring the enemy race will not be an option for Beattie, who will inevitably need to cast the invaders, and it will be interesting to see how this potentially sensitive issue will be handled. Continue reading “Trailer Watch: Tomorrow, When the War Began”