03 July 2005

War of the Worlds

War of the Worlds Still

War of the Worlds

Two names tower in front of this film: Cruise and Spielberg. These should not put you off as they both deliver contrary to recent form and WOTW is unlike Minority Report, their recent (and only?) collaboration.

Recently Spielberg has been out of sorts: AI was conceptual nonsense, Minority Report lacked punch, Catch Me If You Can was the cinematic version of Sunday driving and I have heard nothing to suggest The Terminal is worth seeing. Cruise's last, Collateral, saw him in his most aired and comfortable character, playing himself, flashing oft his pearlies. I am glad to report that both steer well clear of these troubled waters. Cruise is in a constant world of pain and Spielberg is magnificent directing action with few words.

Increasingly, many people rate films according to a broad acceptance of what genre the film falls into. Touching the Void (documentary), The Sphere (science fiction) and Kiss of the Dragon (kung fu) - all are excellent examples of their genre but not necessarily excellent films. War of the Worlds is good in its genre and in its own right. It is nice to be able to say its a great film and not append that with the words "for an action film"

The plot is well known. Martians invade kicking the living bejesus out of earth. It's inevitably wrapped in family story where Cruise is the divorced father who has the kids dumped on him for the weekend by the ex, the weekend earmarked by Martians for Earthly ass kicking. It's this wrapper which provides the instinctive and predictably bad final two minutes which Spielberg should be ashamed of.

There is surprisingly little dialogue in WOTW. This leads to an acutely visual film which is something of a rarity these days. The most dramatic moments are all visual such as the glazing over of an alien eye, a mass of humanity trying to board a small boat and the well designed tripod alien machines. The nice thing is that the effects don't take over, unlike recent ruinous Star Wars films. Instead they illustrate the human story of running and not knowing and being impossibly shafted beyond comprehension. It is a film not about survival but inevitable annihilation. There are also some inspired aural effects too such as the alien 'call' which is haunting and eerie. I can't remember the last time a film's sound was so central and so enjoyable.

For an action flick, there's little of the usual "welcome to the party" type lines and associated jingoistic flag waving. WOTW comes across as more sophisticated than that. The absence of the usual excessive 'jump' moments is another indicator that Spielberg felt he didn't need to employ conventional devices. He does ratchet up the tension again and again and again and just when you think its about to pause for thought, it doesn't. Probably the best scene in the movie is in the crumbling basement of a half-loon half-survivor played very well by Tim Robbins. It is in this scene where you see the aliens themselves who are very well designed and look great. It's a horrid hide and seek moment.

Be warned however, that there is a heavy nasty overtone in the film and I would hesitate to take little people to see it. It probably deserves a 15 rather than a 12A in the UK. There are some quite disturbing scenes, including people being vaporised and a fantastic river of blood shot.

One to see on the big screen. At one stage I looked across the cinema and everyone was riveted.



Blogger porchwise said...

You looked across the cinema and everyone was riveted...bet that looked funny.

8:48 PM  
Blogger welshDJ said...

Good review. As per usual it had the trademark of schmaltz that Spielberg struggles to omit from all of his films-even Schindlers List. But the action sequences and the tension is kept running at a brisk pace-the basement scene really is edge of the seat stuff!

7:22 AM  

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