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Chris High reviews The War Of The Worlds movie on

The War Of The Worlds
Tom Cruise, Tim Robbins, Dakota Fanning, Justin Chatwin
Director: Steven Spielberg
Paramount Pictures

Promotional poster for the movie 'War Of The Worlds starring Tom Cruise


Directed by
Steven Spielberg

It's a tough job adapting for the big screen one of the greatest novels ever written. The setting, the atmosphere of dread and the overall chaos of a situation need to be exactly right and the characters need to bleed emotion. Frankenstein hasn't been achieved properly yet, nor has Dracula and nor have countless other novels that have been given modern day settings from their Victorian originals. The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, published in 1898, was first adapted in 1953 and also by Paramount, as an anti-communist tool. It shook audiences of the day with its special effects, but paid little homage to the book.

Steven Spielberg, arguably the greatest movie man alive today, has now tried where others have failed and, for the most part, succeeds.

Tom Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a divorced dock worker left to look after his two children, Robbie (Chatwin) and Rachel (Fanning), while heavily pregnant Mom and her new, rich husband go to Boston to visit her parents.

To say that Ray's not the best dad in the world, or even that Ray needs to grow up just a tad, is an understatement. He needs to be taught a lesson and Spielberg duly delivers as a lightening storm soon unravels into something a lot more sinister and Martians begin to break out from beneath the earth to unleash hell.

Love him or hate him, nobody can deny that Cruise can act. He is such a deservedly hot property and, in the role of seminal victim - Minority Report or even
A Few Good Men, to name but two such roles - Cruise plays heroes that don't want to be in the situation that they find themselves, with aplomb.

So, it's a little surprising to find that the majority of the acting plaudits in this movie should go to Dakota Fanning. Here is a young lady with a lot more in her locker than an adorable face and cute turns of phrase. She is beguiling on screen for more than just her looks and the role of Rachel is central to Ray's epiphany, as she drags him along behind without a schmaltzy line to be heard. All of which isn't to say that Cruise doesn't do his job well; he really is superb and there are few - if any - of the glib one liners that so often let such movies, and actors, down. This is a very dark film. Laughs are nowhere to be seen, which creates exactly the right atmosphere.

The effects are sensational. Just wait until you see the ferryboat scene. Okay, it's not fog bound London and battleships taking on the Tri-pods, but it's pretty close and you can almost smell the Hudson River sea-salt mixed with fear. As for the Martians themselves, well monsters usually tend to look like what they are; CGI wannabe scary things that make an audience jump. Here, they look like Martians that have come to take over the earth and have a snack or two on the way.

For a little over 90 minutes, the film is enthralling, despite the middle section containing Ogilvy (Robbins) hiding out in an old house whilst trying to build a tunnel, being overplayed. Only when the end is in sight - the last 15 minutes in total - does Spielberg think it's a good idea to raise the American flag of patriotism and threaten to spoil the whole thing.

The ending, after a hellish fire-fight, comes too quickly and is laden with so much sugary sweetness, its possible to believe that a giant can of Diet Tango - of any flavour - has exploded onto the screen.

Not for nothing, have Mom and new Husband gone to Boston, as a statue of Paul Revere hones into view, covered in dying red weed. Think Boston, think tea party, think revolution and then think of every American's wet dream coming true … a happy ending.

Oh please!

War Of The Worlds is a fine movie that is well worth seeing and sticks, by and large, closely to the concepts of the original novel. It's just a pity that Spielberg couldn't have resisted the urge to make a modern day statement so crassly - "Hey, we're Americans, we never lose anything, Mister Bin Laden".

If only this were true of any nation, let alone of modern day America and, fortunately, the popcorn was finished by this time so there was an empty bucket available.


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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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