It all sounds quite similar to John Milius's cult '80s flick Red Dawn (which itself has been remade but shelved due to MGM's financial woes), yet Beattie insists they are two different beasts. Red Dawn is the glistening Striptease to his scrappy underdog The Full Monty, he says. The first-time director isn't far wrong - he's pulled together a slick entertainment at a fraction of the usual blockbuster cost. The spit-and-polish sheen of a studio picture is absent (the film houses a few clunky, contrived moments) but it's a fun ride with a spirited lead turn from former Neighbours actress Caitlin Stasey. It's her character Ellie who bookends the story with video diary entries, leading us to meet pals Corrie (Rachel Hurd-Wood), Kevin (Lincoln Lewis), Homer (Deniz Akdeniz), Fiona (Phoebe Tonkin), Lee (Chris Pang) and Robyn (Ashleigh Cummings) as they return from a camping trip to find their town captured and loved ones held prisoner.
Teen angst eventually gives way to survival instincts as the group go on the run from the enemy. Beattie is careful to find the right tone, blending humour and romance with adventure and tension. His characters initially feel like stereotypes, and that's probably because a lot of them are drawn quite broadly (the jock, the princess, the God botherer), but as the group is forced to pick up arms he juggles the ensemble smartly - giving each character dilemmas and obstacles to face - and they begin to feel more like flesh and blood. By the end you're completely invested in their plight.
Some well-constructed set pieces help to heighten the intensity and provide Ellie, who becomes the group's de facto leader, with the opportunity to come of age. There are a few road bumps for the film along the way, though. Ellie's tentative romance with Lee feels a tad arbitrary, while the addition of stoner Chris (Andrew Ryan) isn't a complete success. Homer is quickly established as the comic relief and joker, so the blazed newcomer, like a watered down refuge from a Kevin Smith film, is almost unnecessary.
Beattie makes a comfortable transition to the director's chair, so it's ironic that it's the script that occasionally lets him down. Pre-invasion he struggles to give each character their own voice, showing something of a tin ear for believable teen-speak. However, when the guns start a-blazin' Tomorrow quickly shifts into gear. The door is tantalisingly left open for a sequel, and if it's as enjoyable as this then it won't be an unwelcome one.