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War of The Worlds

They're Already Here…

While few things could possibly be more entertaining than watching Tom Cruise unleash a scathing indictment on the field of psychiatry, Steven Spielberg's latest, War of the Worlds comes close. Spielberg makes a triumphant return to his science fiction roots with this remake of H.G. Wells' classic.

The aforementioned Cruise plays a self-consumed and irresponsible dad, Ray. Saddled with his two estranged kids (Rachel and Robbie) for the weekend, Ray isn't too happy and the events that are about to unfold are likely to sour his mood even more.

Apparently, we've been under observation for quite some time now as part of some cosmic experiment. The observations are about to come to a close and these voyeuristic visitors have had just about enough of humanity…and really, who could blame them? Historically, a deadbeat dad, Ray is forced to take responsibility for his kids in the wake of the invasion.

Spielberg masterfully brings to life this onslaught against humanity. The invasion is cold, calculating, and unrelenting. The initial scene of humans being senselessly reduced to dust is staggering. The invaders are a frightening amalgamation of machine and insect. Enormous metal tripods with gangly tentacles entrap fleeing humans like hapless sheep. Spielberg's creative genius is on full display in War of the Worlds.

Complementing Spielberg's creativity is a compelling story crafted by screenwriter Josh Friedman. Friedman skillfully interweaves the subplot of Ray's strained relationship with his kids. Thus, War of the Worlds becomes much more than just a story of global apocalypse. It becomes a personal story about familial healing as well.

Tom Cruise does a solid, if unimpressive job of playing Ray. Initially egocentric, we see a different side of Ray in the latter stages of the film as he is confronted with the potential loss of his family. Ray's transformation seems like a bit of a stretch given his past behavior, but given the gravity of the situation it's not implausible.

Ray's daughter Rachel is well played by Dakota Fanning. Fanning seems to have carved out a bit of a niche for herself playing complicated, vaguely creepy children (see Hide and Seek). Rachel is no real departure. She's a health food zealot, suffers from claustrophobia, and seems to have mastered the eerie, blank stare.

Spielberg delivers the visual spectacle one would expect in a science fiction film revolving around the extermination of humanity and tells a pretty entertaining story in the process. While War of the Worlds may not make you want to jump up and down on your couch, you likely won't feel like you wasted your time and money.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars