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< Entertainment >

New Movie Reviews

"War of the Worlds"

by Michael Handorf
handorf@comcast.net

Tom Cruise. Dakota Fanning. Sci-fi / Action.

Synopsis: The first wave of an alien invasion, planned long ago, is temporarily misdiagnosed as bizarre lightning storms.

Review: Exciting and suspense-filled. A great Fourth of July weekend movie.

Ray Ferrier (Cruise) has just arrived home to realize that he is 30 minutes late to receive his children from his ex-wife. He is watching them over the weekend, and his ex-wife is not impressed - with Ray or the state of his home.

The next morning brings with it mysterious storm clouds and repetitive lightning strikes, the likes of which no one has ever seen. As Ray goes out into the city (like everyone else, except his two children who have been instructed to stay at home), he soon finds that the lightning strikes have resulted in more than craters in the streets and the disabling of every electrical device, including all cars and trucks - a huge, mechanical vehicle rises from beneath the Earth's surface, and begins destroying everything around it.

Just before this occurs, Ray mentions to a mechanic friend trying to fix a mini-van that he should replace the solenoid. This works (of course) and after Ray retrieves his daughter Rachel (Fanning) and his son Robbie (Justin Chatwin), Ray proceeds to steal the mini-van so that he has the only working vehicle in New Jersey. Don't fret for the owner of the mini-van - it is highly unlikely that he or she would have survived the initial attack. And if he or she did, there will soon be more than enough problems of much larger magnitude on which to focus.

The trio escapes to the suburbs, only to find that Ray's ex-wife and husband must have already left for her parents' house in Boston.

After encountering more cataclysmic events, Ray begins the trek to Boston. To divulge any more of the film's plot would be unfair, except that they run into a survivalist (Tim Robbins) hiding out in a farmhouse. The survivalist is convinced that he can take out one of the machines if given the opportunity.

The film generates a significant amount of suspense and tension, most of which occurs while the small unit is holed up in the basement of the farmhouse. And even though these scenes worked, the sequences are reminiscent of some of Spielberg's earlier films.

There are also a lot of similarities between the initial attack and 9/11. People are covered in ash, running hysterically from the point of impact. In fact, rather than postulate that the attacks might be of an alien nature, Rachel
and Robbie ask their father if this is the work of "the terrorists." I 'm not certain if the similarities mean anything, or if they are simply just similarities.

You will be captivated for the first two-thirds of the movie, particularly as you witness Tom Cruise portraying a definitely un-heroic character, one step away from being labeled a dead-beat dad.

But then an event occurs that changes the complexion of the film, and Spielberg falls back to a less aggressive position, which is disappointing.

Still, it is interesting to watch these towering machines laying waste to the city, the countryside, everything.

A warning - if you' re a fan of the dumbed-down, cheesy, "Go America" flick that was Independence Day, then steer clear of War of the Worlds.

OVERALL GRADE: B

 

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