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Tomorrow, When the War Began: Unrealistic War Drama
This is ultimately a war film, but the story doesn’t subscribe to the same traditional elements of the genre. Rather than focusing on the battle and the politics of war on a grander scale, it looks at it from a civilian’s point of view. While the characters are numerous, the attempt to cover a broad cross section of personalities often ends up in a portrayal of clichéd stereotypes.
A film that relies so heavily on a character-driven plot, naturally also relies on the performance of its actors. Unfortunately, the young cast fails to deliver, and the film as a whole lacks the drama and action that you’d expect from a subject matter like this one.
The brief and infrequent action scenes stand out as impressive and entertaining, but at times border on the ridiculous. In one scene for example, heavily armed military vehicles are pursuing two girls in a truck, and are powerless to apprehend it.
Tomorrow, When the War Began is an overall weak production that lacks realism, intensity, and features a distinctively average cast. The green light has been given to produce the sequel, which is based on the second novel in the Tomorrow series, with the third part also being considered. Picking up where this film finishes, the sequel will hopefully develop the series into a better watch.
A truly original horror film isn’t easy to come by these days; even the likes of Paranormal Activity and, going further back, The Blair Witch Project don’t stand-up to second viewing after the dust has settled from the initial impact. Irish production, The Canal, isn’t the film that’s going to change that, but it does have its positives.
The story tells of a husband troubled by paranoia; film archivist, David (Evans), suspects that his wife, Alice (Hoekstra), is having an affair and his suspicions are proven right. Amidst the impending demise of his marriage, he also comes to discover that a gruesome murder was committed in his house some one hundred years ago and he becomes increasingly unstable when Alice goes missing and he becomes the number one suspect.
While it’s far from perfect, writer/director, Ivan Kavanagh, manages to create a sense of dread and anticipation throughout, all the while resisting the conventions that have come to define the modern horror genre. It wouldn’t be completely off-point to call The Canal a more traditional, old-school haunted-house horror, with the dreary Irish backdrop making for an apt setting.
The aesthetic seems to have seeped into the dialogue, however, and paints the script with dreary deadpan interactions. But what will keep you engaged most is David’s slow emotional descent; it gives the film a humanness that many modern horrors lack. But as we’ve mentioned, this is a film not cut from the same mould and European film continues to produce diverse and unique horror.
Again, this is far from perfect and there’s a Hollywood polish that moviegoers have become accustomed to that’s lacking and at times this is a film that will make you feel uncomfortable in the best of ways. It’s as much as psycho-thriller as a horror and despite an underwhelming conclusion, it’s indie horrors like this that will impact the genre in the decade to come.
Following the relative success of The Fault in Our Stars, American author, John Green, sees another of his books come to life on the big screen with the much more uneven Paper Towns. Turning from teen romance, to revenge, to road-trip thriller, the film certainly paces through the plot quickly – possibly too quickly - but it’s the performance of the leads – especially model, Cara Delevingne – that keeps things interesting.
Opposite Delevingne is Natt Wolff, who also starred in The Fault in Our Stars; if this is a coming-of-age story, then it’s his character’s story. The film opens with the main characters, Quentin ‘Q’ Jacobsen (Wolff) and Margo Roth Spiegelman (Delevingne), finding a dead body as kids against the backdrop of Quentin developing feelings for Margo. We then flash forward to our leads in the run-up to their high school graduation and though they’ve drifted apart, it’s suggested that Quentin still very much has feelings for Margo. One night, Margo appears at Quentin’s window and lure’s him to help her take revenge against her cheating boyfriend and the friends who knew about his infidelity. That stretch of action has its own quirks and highlights, but the aforementioned thriller element of the film kicks in when Margo leaves town, leaving a trail of clues for Quentin to find her. It’s this part that very much confirms the film as a teen flick through and through – and this is its big problem.
Film critic Rebecca Keegan put forward a good argument when comparing it to possibly the greatest high school movie ever made, The Breakfast Club, pointing out that there’s something intangible that’s missing from Paper Towns; but that thing becomes all too clear half way through. It’s simply not as profound as it presents itself. Keegan goes on to say that The Breakfast Club lingers in your mind as you enter adulthood – when it comes to Paper Towns, however, that isn’t true, because it explores issues such as unrequited love, finding your path in the world and friendship in very predictable ways.
It’s saving graces, too, are somewhat superficial, but enjoyable nonetheless; the soundtrack, which feature music from Twin Shadow, Santigold, HAIM and Vampire Weekend among others; there’s a typically somber, indie tone to the humour and of course we have the rise of Cara Delevingne and Natt Wolff who both demonstrate what bright futures they have in Hollywood. Apart from that, this is not a film that stings, lasts or moves – it’s just a nice indie movie at the end of the day.