JT Film Review

77 – War of the Worlds (2005)

War of the Worlds REVIEW

4/5 stars

Director – Steven Spielberg

Cast – Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto


War of the Worlds tells the familiar tale of hostile aliens attempting to wipe out humanity and take over Earth. It is based on the book of the same name by H. G. Wells. The book was adapted to film in 1953, with that adaptation cited as a “classic” (whatever that means anymore.)

Steven Spielberg’s latest take on the story updates it to modern-day New Jersey. The main character is now a divorced dock worker with two kids to take care of over the weekend. They must survive an alien attack, while along the way growing together as a family. It’s not as corny as it sounds, as the “growing together” aspects are played as a second-hand result of the attack, and is not given front and center placement.

The film is quite scary, and features excellent acting from all the cast concerned. Dakota Fanning (as Tom Cruise’s daughter) is wonderful. She is among the best child actors ever, and is better than most adults. This and her amazing work in Man on Fire really cemented her as a real talent in my opinion. Tom Cruise himself is at the top of his game here, even though it could be said he just plays an extension of all the characters he always plays. However you look at it though, he is very natural on-screen, and can portray a surprising variety of emotions. Couch-jumping or not.

Despite being a premise ripe for a horror movie treatment (or rather, what people think is horror nowadays, i.e. blood and guts), Spielberg keeps the bloodshed in War of the Worlds low. However he ratchets up the tension to a very high degree, which in my opinion is where real horror comes from. We don’t get scared by people being ripped apart, we are scared by thinking they might get ripped apart. This tactic is put to effective use many times throughout the film. The design of the aliens also works in favor of the movie, as they are slender, yet sturdy; graceful but menacing. One scene in particular where they rise out the water is very chilling.

The movie is strongest when it focuses on Cruise and family as they survey the mass destruction caused by the aliens. Planes crash, flaming trains roar past (an EXCELLENT scene), and we are immediately placed in their shoes. The camera is almost always at eye level, which keeps us with the characters very effectively.

The movie does go off track in the ending of the movie, and does sometimes come across as  too “Hollywoodized”. The ending itself is dealt with as best as possible though, and as it was the ending of the book we shouldn’t nitpick too much. I just wished it fit better cinematically. There are a couple moments as well that seem pandering to the audience, as when Tom Cruise yells out to the soldiers a vital piece of information regarding the alien “walkers” near the end of the movie. It is something they should have been able to see for themselves, yet it felt like we needed Tom Cruise to get his moment in the spotlight. We didn’t need Tom to take action and save the day. The whole movie is all about things happening to him, and thus focuses on his reactions to those things. Thematically, it would have been better I think to have ditched that particular spot, and had the soldiers realize that piece of information for themselves.


War of the Worlds is a solid alien-invasion movie, with wonderful performances. The great acting and special effects are unfortunately let down by a slightly weak script. I do recomend this however, as it is very solid and features an excellent Dakota Fanning.



“War of the Worlds” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia



March 11, 2010 - Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , ,

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