War of the Worlds (2005) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

Tom Cruise gives another one of his patented intense performances in his second collaboration with Steven Spielberg. When the worlds biggest star works with the most gifted commercial director in history the bar is always going to be set high. That War of the Worlds is good; isn’t good enough when two titans of the era come together with $150 million dollar budget and a prime summer release date.

Shedding his good-guy persona Cruise plays Ray Ferrier a selfish father of two whom is thrusted into action when aliens begin sprouting out the ground and laying siege on the East Coast. Spielberg directs the first fifteen minutes with a fevered intensity not witnessed since Jurassic Park. Unfortunately after that the film takes on a mundane storyline that meanders into some off-beat territory. Tim Robbins makes an extended cameo in a sequence in which Cruise and his young daughter seek refuge in an underground bunker. This ten minute stretch is quirky and captivating but I’m not quite sure it’s necessary. The film feels like it comes to a dead halt as we wait for the inevitable conclusion to transpire.

Dakota Fanning is well used as the wide-eyed daughter that trusts her older brother, more than her dad. The disconnect between Cruise’s character and his children is an intriguing aspect to the story,. The rathert rather dark and nihilistic tone suggest that Speilberg continues to be guided by the spirit of deceased filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. Although nobody shoots actors looking up to the skies with stary-eyed wonderment better. The problem is once those Spielberg-ian images are on screen it just makes you want to re-watch E.T. or Close Encounters and skip War of the Worlds altogether. The grainy over saturated cinematography by heraled DP Janusz Kaminski is distracting and gives the film a dirty, unappealing visual texture. More of a disappointment than an out and out bad film.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins

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