STARRING: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Miranda Otto, Tim Robbins, Rick Gonzalez, Yul Vázquez, Lenny Venito, Lisa Ann Walter, Ann Robinson, Gene Barry, David Alan Basche, Roz Abrams, Camillia Sanes and Amy Ryan
As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.
War of the Worlds focuses on Ray Ferrier, a divorced dockworker who happens to be a less than perfect father to his two kids. When he ex-wife and her husband drop off his teenage son Robbie and young daughter Rachel for the weekend, a strange and powerful lightning storm hits the town. What happens after the storm is an extraordinary battle for the survival of mankind against an alien threat.
Based on H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, War of the Worlds came out in 2005 and was Steven Spielberg’s followup film to his 2004 film The Terminal. We follow Ray Ferrier, a divorced crane operator who works at the docks in New York and lives in New Jersey, who is estranged from his children Robbie and Rachel and they’re staying at his house for the weekend as his ex-wife and her husband are heading to visit her parents in Boston. During their stay, a strange and powerful lightning storm hits the town and what occurs next threatens the existence of humanity and the world as we know it.
War of the Worlds at the time was a film that I felt incredibly disappointed by when it had its cinematic run and upon rewatching it for the first time in years today I will admit that I liked it more than how I remembered it. The arc of Tom Cruise’s self-absorbed deadbeat dead turned protective parent is one that I actually bought into, particularly in the pivotal scene halfway through the film where he is forced to make the unbearable choice of either letting go of his son who will seemingly run into his death in witnessing the fight against the alien threat or losing his daughter to a strange couple who believe that she’s on her own. It’s little moments of humanity in the film for me that shines the most from the blockbuster spectacle, such as the scene that takes place in a dark basement between Ray, Rachel and loose cannon Harlan Ogilvy, as well as the scene involving a desperate zombie-like mob forcing Ray and the kids to abandon the car showing that fear and instinct of survival completely outweigh compassion and senses of morality. The film also has some strong looking sequences, such as the initial attack from one of the alien tripods, to the attack of the Ferry and it’s the cinematography from Janusz Kaminski and film editing from Michael Kahn that should be commended the most for how well these scenes work. Initially on first viewing I didn’t buy Tom Cruise as this character at all but upon watching it again I definitely appreciate it more than I did originally, mainly due to the character arc and how Cruise sold me with his performance.
While the film has some strong ideas and some very well constructed scenes, I can’t love the film due to its final act. To say that it’s an underwhelming final act would be an understatement as not only does it appear rushed, it manages to wrap up a certain pivotal moment that had such weigh behind it and make it completely irrelevant due to how the film ends. Outside of Tom Cruise, I honestly didn’t care for any of the other characters, not even his kids played by Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin. It’s nothing to do with their performances, it’s that their characters are standard children cliches such as the teenager that doesn’t get on with his father and the daughter that’ll scream….alot. The lighting in the scene when the kids get dropped off at Ray’s house is still all kinds of distracting with its brightness. Most of the CGI still stands up nicely with exception to some instances in the tripod’s attack in the town is too noticeably green screen.
It’s a fine film with some memorable sequences involving the tripods attacking the town, ferry and everyone trying to run from them and the little moments focusing on the loss of humanity in a time of such plight is when the film is at its strongest. It’s a shame that outside of Tom Cruise, no one else (well, bar Tim Robbins) gets a chance to shine in a scene and the films final act is still a rather unsatisfying finish considering how strong the film starts. 5/10