Saturday, July 09, 2005

War of the Worlds (IMDB) (Netflix)
The Steven Spielberg movie of the Orson Welles radio play of the H.G. Wells book—a content reuse trifecta. Or just think of this as "Close Encounters: This Time They're Quite Upset." Tom Cruise is the slightly irresponsible (but oh-so charming) divorced father of two, including the kid actor who makes Shirley Temple look like a dullard, Dakota Fanning (see Man on Fire with Denzel Washington for her breakthrough performance). The death rays hit the fan in Tom's New Jersey, and apparently salvation is to be found in Boston, where Mom lives, so off we go, encountering the entire range of humanity and inhumanity along the way. The movie is really about how people respond to extreme stress—some folks, like tennis hustler Bobby Riggs, just got better as the stress grew (until Billie Jean King), and many lose it.

The tension builds pretty continuously for the first two thirds of the movie--just as you think the nightmare is ending, something else happens to raise the tension. The aliens are nicely menacing (no ET here) and there's no time wasted on their motivation. The family dynamics get a little wearisome, but in all, a great summer entertainment.