War of the Worlds

Reality War

Main Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Justin Chatwin

Director: Steven Spielberg

A modern remake of H. G. Wells’s classic science-fiction story, War of the Worlds takes us on a journey through disaster and strife, but it really is a family drama at heart. We first meet Ray Ferrier (Cruise) at his place of business: the docks. Not a glamorous job by any means, and as it turns out he isn’t much of a father, either. His ex-wife (Miranda Otto) drops off Robbie (Chatwin) and Rachel (Fanning) for a weekend visit, and it’s clear that she doesn’t really trust him to take good care of them. Soon a strange lightning storm touches down and unleashes bolt after bolt of energy, fierce and relentless in its fury. This heralds the arrival of the aliens, and then it’s off to the races as Ray tries to flee from their murderous wrath with his two children.

What struck me about War of the Worlds was the down-to-earth reality of the horror. Yes, special effects were the king, but everything was seamlessly integrated to give the feeling of “yes, it could happen this way”. Cruise handled his role with solid professionalism. Ray is not a hero by any means, and he spends most of the movie running and simply trying to survive, with no master plan and no intention to be a hero. Fanning has nothing much to do but look scared, a disappointment as I know she is a top-notch young actor. The rest of the cast are solid and, again, lend realism and weight to events that might otherwise not be taken seriously (Martians attacking with big, three-legged tanks?).

Overall I would recommend War of the Worlds as a family drama, not as a sci-fi or disaster flick. The focus is personal, on these three people and how Ray tries, and fails, to be a good father. The action is exciting and superb, with the appropriate towering destruction of cities and scores of deaths, and a sense of sadness permeates the film: which matches the book.

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