Review of 'War of the Worlds'

war_of_the_worlds.jpg Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a divorced container crane operator living in New Jersey. After his ex-wife (Miranda Otto) drops off their two children, rebellious son, teenager Robbie (Justin Chatwin), and meek 10-year old daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning) for a weekend visit with their father…things start going a bit odd beginning with some unusual lightening behaviour. Striking multiple times in the middle of an intersection Ray joins a crowd to see what is going on when the entire junction opens up to reveal concealed beneath an alien ship that then proceeds to vaporise the terrified populace. Figuring things are amiss (!), Ray races home to grab his two children and escape from the city and return them back to their mother in Boston. The battle for the planet does not go well with the motives of the aliens becoming painfully clear as they harvest the humans…

A modern retelling of the H. G. Wells classic sees Tom Cruise taking the somewhat unconvincing role as “dead-beat dad” who changes over the course of the film to “super dad”. Cruise seems to lack a great deal in actual facial expression but makes up for it in running away very well…Both child actors are tremendous here making up for the plastic Cruise though I have to say my ears rang more than a little at the repeated screams from Fanning. Tim Robbins has a creepy cameo as the deranged Harlan Ogilvy, convinced he can singlehandedly spearhead the defeat of the aliens. His later scenes bring the planetary disaster down into a very human, horrifying, scale.

The effects, as you might expect from Spielberg, are really incredible though perhaps a bit more understated than his other movies with the determined choice here made to tell the story from Ray's point of view reminiscent of the shakey-cam hit Cloverfield - You don't really know what is going on. We piece together along with the lead character as the movie progresses. Having said, that the scene where the aliens arrive then the later scene with the aliens attacking the ferry are both absolutely incredible providing us with suitable spectacle yet also conveying total chaos. Spielberg makes use of first-person camera work to really draw us into the film (though, thankfully, without making us nauseous in the process - Yes, Cloverfield, I am talking about you) but then pulls back so we can appreciate the enormity of what is actually happening. A lot of money was spent here and every bit of it is on the screen. With the smaller, personal scenes things are a bit more unconvincing but he relies on the talent of his actors and, luckily, they are top-notch.

Definitely a big-budget summer blockbuster that did not really inspire too much when it came out. I can't say I was overly drawn into the story with many quite unappealing characters but there is really some great eye-candy and truly horrifying moments here.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2019-06-08

Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Year: 2005

Length: 116 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by Steven Spielberg: