Based on the amount of films I see per year it is not very often that I am surprised by a film. I am not the world's biggest Tom Cruise fan (major understatement), so I was not really expecting much from a film that is a remake of a cinematic classic starring him. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.
The direction (Steven Spielberg) was excellent, the story, despite some inconsistencies, kept me interested, the special effects were mind boggling at times, and Mr. Cruise did a fine job of acting his part.
The action, once it starts, does not let up much for the rest of the film. I would have to say that the "slower" parts are the weakest of the film. I had a knot in my stomach for most of the movie because I was anxious about what was going to happen next (even though I knew what happens). This for me is the sign of a good action/sci-fi film – the sitting on the edge of your seat and much tension.
Obviously the film's whole budget was not spent on Mr. Cruise salary; some was left over for the special effects. These were some of the most realistic and cool special effects I have seen in film. I will not describe any for fear of ruining things. While the special effects are great they are made greater by the way that Spielberg decided to shoot them. He does not focus on the effects, but allows them to "naturally" be part of the scene. He also increases the tension within the story by using light, or lack thereof, in many scenes.
Spielberg never loses sight of the fact that he wants his version of the film to focus on Ray and his relationship with his family and he rarely compromises that vision in favour of special effects. The script has had some updates to it and it remains as scary as when H.G. Wells first wrote it in 1953. Josh Friedman (script consultant on Sahara and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) has put some updated touches into it.
Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) works on the docks in New York. He is divorced from his wife, Mary Ann (Miranda Otto – The Thin Red Line and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers), who has remarried and is pregnant. Ray is not a very likeable person; he is arrogant and does not seem to want to participate in the upbringing of his children. Mary Ann drops off their two kids, teenager Robbie (Justin Chatwin – Taking Lives and Josie and the Pussycats) and Rachel (Dakota Fanning – Hide and Seek and Man on Fire), with Ray for a couple of days at his house in New Jersey.
The relationship between Ray and Robbie is obviously strained. Ray is definitely not used to having kids around or taking care of them. He has just come off a 12-hour shift so he goes to bed. When he wakes up he finds out from Rachel that Robbie, who does not have a driver's license, has taken off in his car. While he is outside he notices a large storm coming towards them. Ray remarks to his neighbour that it is weird that the wind is blowing towards the storm. The whole neighbourhood is outside watching the storm. Ray makes Rachel come outside and watch even though she is scared.
A lightening storm begins, but there is no thunder. Lightening hits right around their house, so Ray and Rachel run inside. All the power is off and the telephone lines are down. The storm is getting worse and Ray is worried about Robbie, so he goes out to try and find him. Ray runs into Robbie just in front of the house. Robbie tells him that the car just died on Lincoln Avenue and that the lightening storm was really bad there. Ray tells him to get inside the house and to stay there while he goes to find the car.
Ray heads downtown and along the way he sees that all cars seem to have just died in the middle of the streets. There is a big crowd downtown standing around a hole in the ground. All of a sudden there is a rumbling from under the ground and up pops a huge tripod like machine that starts shooting lasers which just evaporates what ever it hits. Ray barely makes it home and when he gets there the kids want to know what is going on. He is visibly shaken by what he has seen and is not able to verbalize. Ray tells Robbie to pack some food in a box that they are leaving to go to meet their mother in Boston. Ray manages to find one car that is working and steals it from the mechanic that was working on it.
All of New Jersey is in complete mayhem. Ray decides to drive using all the back roads to Boston. I am not going to go into anymore of the story, but the rest is about the struggle Ray and his kids have for survival.
•Revisiting the Invasion
•The H.G. Wells Legacy
•Steven Spielberg and the Original War of the Worlds
•Characters: The Family Unit
•Designing the Enemy: Tripods and Aliens
•Scoring War of the Worlds
•We Are Not Alone
•Theatrical teaser trailer (in HD)