War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds (2005)Synopsis:

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:

This is how you do a remake. When I first heard that Steven Spielberg had chosen H. G. Welles’s book 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 (1977) and E. T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)?,” I asked myself. I couldn’t picture Spielberg doing justice to Wells’s bleak sci-fi opus. 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.

War of the Worlds is a sober, violent movie (I was surprised that it was rated PG-13), a valentine to jaded millennium viewers. But Spielberg is not pandering to new sensibilities; he is simply acknowledging today’s realities. Spielberg took the very ’50s George Pal classic and reworked it to reflect post-9/11 anxieties. Spielberg also managed to do something very difficult — he re-imagined the original while paying tribute to it. In the end, I think the newest version will please both classic film buffs and modern viewers.

The screenplay, by Josh Friedman and David Koepp (Jurassic Park and Spider-Man), 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.

Considering that they are reacting to something that is not there, the actors are more than good; they are pitch perfect. Fanning is the standout. The Oscar-nominated visual & sound effects are awesome, but it is Fanning’s brilliant naturalistic performance what makes the whole thing seems so real — you believe 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.

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