Directed by Steven Spielberg, War of the Worlds is a stunning remake of H.G. Wells's classic that pits the entire human race against an alien army hell bent on destroying us in place of themselves. Told through the eyes of one family, Spielberg shows us fear, determination, and outright panic in many situations where they are just trying to survive. War of the Worlds is a darker tale interwoven with outstanding talent on both sides of the camera.
We start out the movie with Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) who is a simple working man, divorced, and going to spend a weekend with his children (no, I'm not talking about Katie Holmes) whom he never sees. Soon, however, a huge lightning storm brings more than just bad weather, but an unexpected invasion. Throughout the entire movie, the devistation and destruction is action packed, only stopping to breathe towards the final act. The surround sound is some of the best sound I have ever heard in a movie--it had my seat shaking, it was so powerful. Now that is how you play a summer blockbuster. Also, lets not forget Dakota Fanning. She is perhaps one of the best child actors I have ever seen. Fanning never fails to amaze me in her seemingly mature talent, being only eleven years old. (If you doubt me, check out Taken, a mini-series now on DVD). Her performance sets the bar for panic and fear in the movie. Maybe some of this credit can be given to Spielberg, known for transforming Drew Barrymore in E.T. into a loveable little girl on-screen.
Speaking of Spielberg, I am continually amazed by his technical expertise in filmmaking. There is one shot in the movie that I didn't catch the first time--it took a second viewing to catch it because of its subtle, yet powerful nature. Cruise and his family are trying to escape the invasion, making their way through the crowded interstate in a van. If you see the film, pay attention to what the camera does: it pans, rotates, goes into and out of the van with such fluditiy, I wonder "how on Earth did he do that shot!"
However, there are a couple of details that mar the performance of this otherwise good movie. First, is the lack of an overall picture. Yes, the movie is very focused and straight-lined, but I wanted to get a sense of the invasion and its ultimate result, especially at the end of the movie, which brings me to my next problem. I felt that the film could have used 10 or 15 more minutes to resolve and wrap-up the story.
So, ignoring the rather flat ending, War of the Worlds is a great movie that I would recommend to anyone looking for a good summer movie.