War of the Worlds (2005)

Pure adrenaline fun and thrills in this modern update by Spielberg.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #357

Dir. Steven Spielberg
2005 | USA | Adventure/Sci-Fi/Thriller | 117 mins | 1.85:1 | English

PG (passed clean) for frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing images

Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins
Plot: As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.
Awards: Nom. for 3 Oscars – Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects

Distributor: Paramount

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Alien Invasion; Survival
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 31 Dec 2008
Spoilers: Mild

Based on H.G. Wells’ novel of the same name, Steven Spielberg’s version of War of the Worlds is a remake of the 1953 classic directed by Bryon Haskin.  It is not difficult to see which version delivers more bang and entertainment value. Spielberg has exceeded expectations once again in crafting an excellent edge-of-your-seat movie that needs to be experienced in a theatre.  

War of the Worlds showcases some of the best visual effects in a Spielberg film since Jurassic Park (1993).  After a quiet fifteen-minute introduction to the film’s characters, Spielberg then unleashes hell on screen in a frightening sequence of pure terror that marks the entrance of the ‘tripod’, a three-legged machine operated by aliens that stands tall amongst buildings and has ray guns that can blast humans to ashes. 

This sequence alone is worth the price of the admission ticket.  Apart from this, there is a Spielbergian moment – the suspenseful basement probing sequence – during the second-third of the film when an eel-like extension of the tripod threatens to derail the hopes of Tom Cruise and co. surviving the onslaught. 

“What is it? Is it terrorists?”

The cast is led reliably by Cruise, with notable supporting acts by Dakota Fanning and Tim Robbins.  Fanning is especially convincing with her constant screams and her natural ability to evoke expressions of fear and uneasiness.  She is, in my books, the best child actor to hit the jackpot since Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense). 

Besides the stunning visual effects and Spielberg’s Midas touch, the original score by multiple Oscar-winning composer John Williams also plays a part in effectively creating an ominous and menacing atmosphere throughout the film. 

There has been criticism about the ending of War of the Worlds.  Those unfamiliar with Wells’ work may feel cheated at the way the film is concluded.  But purists will salute Spielberg for sticking faithfully to Well’s ending instead of going for a typical ‘blast-‘em-to-pieces’ Hollywoodized finale that Spielberg occasionally loves to indulge. 

War of the Worlds is superior to its original classic in every way.  It is an update for a modern audience.  And it is two hours of pure adrenaline fun.

Grade: B+  




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