US Release Date: 06-29-2005
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
- Tom Cruise, as
- Ray Ferrier
- Justin Chatwin, as
- Robbie Ferrier
- Dakota Fanning, as
- Rachel Ferrier
- Tim Robbins, as
- Miranda Otto, as
- Mary Ann Ferrier
- David Alan Basche, as
- Rick Gonzalez, as
- Yul Vazquez as
Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds.
When Spielberg's light is on, there's no better director of solid entertainment. And Cruise, despite a penchant for making an ass of himself recently, is becoming a better actor with each film. Together they've managed to create a visually exciting, yet emotionally grounded retelling of a science fiction classic that makes for a perfect summer movie-going experience.
Cruise stars as Ray, a divorced father living in New Jersey. When his ex-wife drops his teenage son and young daughter off for the weekend, while she and her new husband visit her parents in Boston, his biggest worry is handling his children for a few days. It isn't long however before he has much bigger things to worry about.
A series of freak lightening storms across the globe, a side effect of which is the loss of power for anything electronic, soon reveals itself for what it is; a full-fledged alien invasion. Ray manages to grab hold of one of the few working cars in the area and heads out with his children in tow. His aim is to get the kids to their mother in Boston and figure things out from there. Only standing between him and bean town are thousands of refugees, the military and a large host of alien invaders.
The journey, naturally, is two-pronged. There is the physical journey where Ray must use his wits and amazingly good luck to traverse the treacherous landscape. This is where the movie excels. And then there is the emotional journey as Ray learns how to become a father along the way. This part of the movie, while featuring great performances by Cruise and Dakota Fanning (who has to be one of the best child actors of all time) as his daughter, is still good, but the ending feels a little contrived and very, very Hollywood.
I have only the most vague memories of watching the 1950's version of this story, but I have read the book. This movie, while taking place in a different century and on a different continent, still manages to retain the spirit of the original as well as certain plot elements. Perhaps the most key being that the entire story is told from Ray's point of view. What's happening in the rest of the world? How are the governments and armies of the world handling the situation? We only know by the glimpses Ray sees along the way, when he passes a battle scene between the army and the aliens or when he comes across a news van occupied with reporters with no one to report to, who show him some of their footage. It keeps the sense of danger very much on a personal level.
Normally I feel that certain movies run too long. However, with this one I felt it could have run a bit longer. The ending feels a little rushed. Perhaps because the ending, which remains true to the earlier versions, is so well known, it was felt that it shouldn't have been dwelt upon, but I would have been happier with a slightly longer resolution scene.
Let Cruise rant and jump on furniture all he wants. So long as he can churn out movies like this one, he's free to make a fool of himself all he wants.
Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins in War of the Worlds.
I too felt the ending was rushed. The reunion scene carried less emotion than it could have. It is the one scene where Spielberg really held back. Several times during Ray's physical and emotional journey, he uses close ups of Cruise's distraught face. He lets the emotions play out and thus allows War of the Worlds to be more than just a science fiction film. The final scene definitely needed to be longer so the full impact of all that happened and is happening in this scene can sink in.
The movie begins with a few quiet moments of a family struggling to understand each other. Then the tension rises with the alien invasion and it never lets up till that final scene. The characters, and the audience, need a longer down time at the end. Otherwise, War of the Worlds is perfect cinematic entertainment.
Cruise gives a dynamic performance. The entire emotional center of the film is on his capable shoulders. He is an inadequate father. Through the course of the film he learns to express and act out his true love for his kids and, as Scott wrote, become a better father. The scene on the hill where he lets go of his son to save his daughter is his Sophie's Choice. Cruise handles this role with incredible effectiveness.
As in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg knows that sometimes what is not shown can be more scarey than what is. Many scenes merely have the actors look at lights and hear ominous sounds. With Spielberg's expertise, that is enough to set the mood and give you the creeps.
War of the Worlds is one of Spielberg's best films!
Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise in War of the Worlds.
My brothers have left me little to add. But I agree that this movie works on nearly every level. Much of the credit goes to H.G. Wells for creating a terrifying story filled with such indelible images that it holds up well more than a century after it was written.
Spielberg continues to evolve as a director. Other than the Hollywood ending, (which I for one was glad he kept brief) this movie has a much bleaker tone than most of his work. The Tim Robbins character for example isn't portrayed as just a survival nut, it is also suggested that he may be a child molester as well. Denouements have always been Spielberg's Achilles heel so this was the perfect story for him to tackle since Wells wrote such a brilliant conclusion.
Cruise does an outstanding job. He continues to be the greatest male movie star of his generation. No other man in movies today combines his powerful screen presence with such intense yet natural acting. Dakota Fanning matches Cruise scene for scene. She reacts exactly as a little girl would under the circumstances.
Scott's right, War of the Worlds is a perfect summer movie-going experience.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2005)