Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel gets better every time I watch it. Certainly not one of his best films, WAR OF THE WORLDS still delivers a taut and exciting thrill-ride from start to finish even though it falls a little short at the end. 

This take on the classic sci-fi novel finds Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) as a divorced New Jersey father who is clearly not cut out for the job. His children Robbie (Justin Chatwin) and Rachel (Dakota Fanning) are dropped off to him while his wife Mary Ann (Miranda Otto) and her new husband head off to Boston for the weekend. 

When a freak lightning storm turns out to be the beginnings of an alien invasion, Ray must learn to be the father he was meant to be and figure out how to protect his children when the world is falling apart around them. 

As I’ve said before, regardless of what you think of Tom Cruise off-screen, on-screen he always give engaging performances. Cruise’s Ray is damaged goods and it’s hard to like him at first, but over the course of the story (as in his most recent film EDGE OF TOMORROW), we see a true transformation and the completion of a genuine character arc. 

What stands out most in WAR OF THE WORLDS are the astonishing special FX coupled with some generally disquieting sound design. The action sequences are quite impressive mixing live action elements with CGI to create a sense of realism lost in many summer blockbusters. 

The film also has an intensity and sense of hopelessness that carries throughout the entire film, which pushes the boundaries of the PG-13 rating. Spielberg can be schmaltzy at times, but that is reined in quite a bit here and WAR OF THE WORLDS is as much horror as it is sci-fi. 

At the end of the day WAR OF THE WORLDS is a solid film and well worth your time. Just make sure you watch it on a good-sized screen with a quality 5.1-surround system.

JUNE 23, 2014