Film Review: War of the Worlds (2005)

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After wallowing in sappy Tom Hanks movies for the better part of a decade, Steven Spielberg finally gets off his ass and makes another great thriller. Of course, this remake of War of the Worlds is no Jaws. This movie may have some problems, but fact of the matter is, it fills me with genuine dread and terror, and I really like that in a movie. Real dread and terror are extremely hard to come by, and if they happen to come in an imperfect film, I’ll take it with gratitude and give credit where credit is due.

Scenes from this movie will haunt me forever: People burst into ash, their clothing left spiraling on the breeze. A little girl watches corpses float down a bloody river. The tripods, with their spindly legs and ominous two-note call, send a shiver down my spine. The mob scene outside the diner and the ferry boat attack are both fantastic. What I love most of all is that there is no escape, no solution, no way out of the nightmare. Even twenty minutes from the end of the movie, no one has a clue how to beat the aliens. The only way to maintain that impervious threat is to keep the original ending. Yes, something simple, something out of the blue, something darn near silly, saves the day. But as abrupt and unsatisfying as that ending is for a lot of people, I would argue it is better than the formulaic plot we’d have had otherwise: halfway through the movie, a solution would have been discovered, and the threat would have instantly dissipated. This may be the only time where deus ex machina doesn’t bother me.

Maybe the imagery and viscera just hit me on a personal level (quite possible, since my most vivid nightmares always involve inexplicable apocalyptic forces), but I dig this flick a lot. Tom Cruise and young actors Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin deliver fine performances (though the handling of Chatwin’s character proves to be one of the movie’s weakest links). The claustrophobic subplot involving a neurotic character played by Tim Robbins seems to divide many viewers, but I thought the diversion was interesting and well-played. Janusz Kaminski’s stark, gritty cinematography hasn’t been more appropriate in a Spielberg film since Schindler’s List, and John Williams returns to his Close Encounters roots for some brooding, atonal work that may not sell soundtrack albums, but services the film quite well.

Rating: 4/5 ★★★★☆ 

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About Scott_S

Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)

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