Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 2005
Directed by
Steven Spielberg
117 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bruce Paterson
3.5 stars

War Of The Worlds

Synopsis: Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a working class man living in New Jersey. His estranged wife (Miranda Otto) leaves him looking after his ten year old daughter and teenage son (Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin) for the weekend. If that weren’t difficult enough, gigantic alien killing machines appear all over the world the following day. Ray and children are catapulted into a terrifying flight for survival.

I like science-fiction as much as the next person. Well, perhaps I like it more if the next person is content with prequels in a galaxy far, far away. And perhaps I like it less if the next person is that Canadian dentist who has made his surgery look like the Starship Enterprise. But my point is, I like science fiction. A lot. And yet I have a confession to make. For some reason I haven’t read H. G. Wells’ famous novel. I was vaguely aware that it featured the invasion of Earth by Martians (not really a ‘war of the worlds’), of the urban legend that Orson Welles’ radio play had people panicking in the streets, and that it was later set to rock music with a sonorous narration by Richard Burton.

But you need know nothing of the original novel in order to have your socks knocked off by Spielberg’s revisioning, although perhaps knowing the ending might help you avoid exclaiming: “Is that it!?!”. It doesn’t really make sense – you could understand a small advance party of aliens coming unstuck, but a global invasion force that has planned this for at least hundreds if not thousands of (and according to Tim Robbins's hillbilly farmer, "a million") years? And why are sophisticated aliens so bloodthirstily nasty anyway? Considering the 19th century source material, I suppose one has to suspend disbelief. Given the emotional honesty of the performances from Cruise, Fanning and Chatwin, however, this is not difficult. They are justifiably scared witless, and you will be too, as you follow their escape from close perspective. War Of The Worlds needs the big screen/Dolby surround sound experience.

Directors seem to have a compulsive urge to ‘base’ their films on novels and then deviate wildly from the source material. In Spielberg’s case, he is apparently quite faithful to the novel’s themes, but does hugely magnify the scale of the invasion so that the CGI people really had something to sink their teeth into. This is well and good, terrifying, visually spectacular, inventive and so forth. Spielberg gives the story everything he has in a sustained burst of intense, creative cinema that is full of fear and hope. It’s a story of humanity under attack, and the identity of the attackers is ultimately not hugely important or even ever really identified. The questions are more concerned about, as Morgan Freeman sonorous introductory narration has it, about our complacent illusion that we are masters of our world.




Want more about this film?

search youtube  search wikipedia  

Want something different?

random vintage best worst