War of the Worlds, film: 2005
War of the Worlds (2005) is a contemporary retelling of the classic tale by H. G. Wells, which originally appeared as a serialized novel, before being adapted as a radio play, and then as a film in 1953. This most recent movie version of War of the Worlds was directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier, a divorced dockworker, his ex-wife (Miranda Otto), his rebellious teenage son (Justin Chatwin), and his young daughter (Dakota Fanning).
Spielberg's extraterrestrials are wicked scary. It is tempting, and not altogether out-of-place to take War of the Worlds and last summer's The Terminal as the director's response to the September 11 attacks. This film is nerve-rackingly apocalyptic, offering an occasional reprieve but not much solace. Tom Cruise has lately proven himself to be much more interesting as a talk show guest than as an actor. But he remains adept at playing a jerk brought low by circumstances beyond his control. War of the Worlds also succeeds in reminding us that while Spielberg doesn't always make great movies, he seems constitutionally incapable of bad movie-making. It's not much to think about, but it's certainly something to see. (New York Times, AO Scott)
This takes us on a wild journey through two sides of its supremely popular director - the dark and the light. A first class pop entertainment packed to the brim with astounding effects and near non-stop action and suspense – and laced with painful undercurrents. With all of his apple-cheeked, reckless charm, Tom Cruise looks like a guy who could outrace an extraterrestrial. It's unfair to blame Spielberg for not making a different movie from this one – just as it's unfair to critically dismiss this as some will. As a horror-adventure science fiction spectacular, it delivers the goods. But it's not the world-beater it could have been – Spielberg's War of the Worlds definitely wins the battle, but not the war. (Chicago Tribune, Michael Wilmington)
War of the Worlds is a massive return to form for Spielberg, the best blockbuster of the summer (superior to even Batman Begins). And, I would be happy to argue, the greatest action epic of all time. For all his drive and good looks, Cruise has a cocky, egocentric side, and his boyishness is starting to look spooky in a man over 40. As for epic special effects and searing imagery, Spielberg does not disappoint. The crowd scenes are especially brilliantly directed. Just as important as the awe-inspiring spectacle, however, are the pace of the story-telling and masterful use of suspense. With Jaws 30 years ago, the young Spielberg single-handedly invented the summer blockbuster. It's good to see that when the chips are down and many critics were eagerly preparing to write him off, the old Maestro can still show us all how to do it. (Chris Tookey, Dail Mail)
It's almost as if there are two Steven Spielbergs behind the camera. One delivers a thrilling action adventure, the other produces a rather aimless family drama with faint and not terribly interesting political overtones. There are hints of a topical subtext - co-writer and Spielberg regular David Koepp has said he sees the project as an "anti-Iraq War film. But nothing commercial enough to interfere with the movie's commercial potential. Cruise is just too clean-cut to make Ray's arc from unpleasant slob to caring dad believable or truly affecting. (Screen Daily, John Hazleton)
Spielberg does more than justice to the grandaddy of all alien invasion tales. The film perhaps takes a little too much glee in its abilities to manufacture mayhem. That being said, the ride is extraordinary. Spielberg keeps tightening the screws as he is clearly in full command of his war zone. He waits 87 minutes to reveal the alien creatures themselves, and only at this point do we realise what little bloodsuckers they are. With Cruise and Fanning, it's not always clear who is the child and who the adult as the actors continually switch those roles. (Hollywood Reporter, Kurt Honeycutt)