An average blue-collar single father (Tom Cruise, Top Gun), and his two children (Dakota Fanning, Man on Fire, and Justin Chatwin, Taking Lives), struggle to survive amidst a devastating alien invasion.
Reaction & Thoughts:
When I first heard that Steven Spielberg had chosen H. G. Welles’s bleak sci-fi opus as his next project I almost soiled my pants. “Are we talking about the same guy who gave us the feel-good sci-fi classics Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E. T. – The Extra-Terrestrial?” I went to the theater convinced that I was about to watch a disaster of epic proportions, but to my surprise this is Spielberg at his latter-day best. This latest viewing confirmed my initial reaction — it’s a rock-solid movie that actually plays better the second time around.
The screenplay is credited to Josh Friedman (The Black Dahlia) and David Koepp (Jurassic Park ). The writers reshaped Welles’s book and their script focuses almost exclusively on the three main characters. We see the alien invasion through their eyes — it’s an effective way of drawing the audience into the story.
War of the Worlds is a somber, violent movie. There no gratuitous violence here, though. Spielberg is simply acknowledging today’s realities — the director and his team reworked Welles’s book to reflect post-9/11 anxieties. Spielberg also managed to re-imagined the classic 1953 version while paying tribute to it. In the end, I think the newest version will please both classic film buffs and modern viewers.
Considering that they are reacting to something that is not there, the actors are more than good; they are pitch perfect. Dakota Fanning is the standout. The Oscar-nominated visual & sound effects are awesome, but it is Fanning’s naturalistic performance what makes the whole thing seems so real — you really believe that she is absolutely terrified. Tim Robbins (Mystic River) has a small role as a paranoid redneck. Gene Barry and Ann Robinson, the stars of George Pal’s 1953 classic, have cameos.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
War of the Worlds has a few wrinkles, nonetheless, this is an immensely satisfying movie. It feels much darker than the typical Spielberg movie, which proves that the director is capable of creating great adult-oriented material. Narrated by Morgan Freeman (The Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby). Color, 116 minutes, Rated PG-13.