Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Written by:Josh Friedman, David Koepp
Starring: Tom Cruise, Justin Chatwin, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto, Miranda Otto, David Alan Basche
Released: June 30, 2005
Grade: B+

It begins with an electrical storm.  The strange looking skies and bright flashes of lightening have brought many into streets with their cameras.  Ray Ferrier (Cruise) is surprised to see the fierce winds blowing towards the storm’s centre, rather than away.  His daughter, Rachel (Fanning) is terrified and wants to get back into the house as soon as possible.

The storm quickly passes and Ray walks down the street to see if there’s any damage.  He leaves his younger daughter with his teenage son, Robbie (Chatwin).  The lightening has left a deep crater in the middle out of the road outside the town church.  The gathering crowds look with curiosity and ask, how could lightening strike the same place so many times?

 The ground then starts to rumble.  The road starts to break apart.  Ray suspicions that something is not right have now been confirmed.  An enormous mechanical creature rises from the huge crater.  There’s not much time for reality to sink in however.  The creature begins its attack, killing everything its path with a simple laser beam.  The Earth is under attack.

Watching The War Of The Worlds reminded me very much of 2002’s Signs (with Mel Gibson).  The similarity is that it’s the story of an alien invasion told solely from the perspective from one man.  We only see what he sees.  Ray suspects the whole world is under attack but he just doesn’t know and so neither do we.  All communication has been cut – he’s on his own with his two kids in a survival battle.

Tom Cruise is fine in the leading role.  A little over-the-top perhaps but that’s what we expect from him.  My favourite performance was from 10-year-old Dakota Fanning (Man On Fire).  She is exceptionally annoying and I say this in a positive way.  I just wanted to punch her sometimes but she acts how a scared girl would in such a situation.  She isn’t your standard 11-year-old who speaks like a 31-year-old.

Steven Spielberg is the director and you should know that this isn’t the first time he’s delved into the alien world.  From Spielberg, we’ve seen Artificial Intelligence, E.T. and Close Encounters Of The Third KindWar Of The Worlds is substantially darker and shows graphic images of humans being obliterated (with simplicity).  Don’t go thinking this is an action-comedy ala Independence Day.

I liked Signs slightly more because it felt creepier and more suspenseful.  War Of The Worlds though still has a lot of intrigue.  Details about the mechanical monsters are kept to a minimum (for better or worse) and you’ll be wondering until the very end as to how they are going to defeat these impregnable beasts.  Then again, if you’ve seen an earlier version of this film or read H.G. Wells’ novel, you may already know.