Intellects vast, cool, and unsympathetic

There is lightning and a little rain outside tonight. I just got back from War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise. Lightning signifies something important in the film and so the lightning flashing as I walked from my car to my apartment, followed by a police siren, was enough to give me a serious case of the willies. There are very few films that can do that to me.

I have always been fond of Stephen Spielberg's early work, particularly Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Back then Spielberg seemed to have his finger on the pulse of what it meant to be human. He really brought out humanity on film; the sheer emotion of it. In recent years he's only been able to do that for me a couple of times. Once in Schindler's List and, to a much lesser degree, in Saving Private Ryan. In War of the Worlds Spielberg has managed to revive some of his old magic touch.

There are critics who say this film has no humor. Make no mistake, the emotion Spielberg is eliciting from his audience in this film is, above all else, fear. But there is, indeed, humor. Black, sparse, and fleeting, but it's there. Some critics also say that the film loses focus during and after the scenes with Tim Robbins. I would say, rather, that it changes focus. It definitely loses some of its intensity at this point, and it becomes more of a "Hollywood" film, but the movie, IMO, wasn't harmed a great deal as a result. There is also a very "Hollywood" ending but, again, it's tolerable.

This film is influenced both by the original book and by the 1953 George Pal movie. There are plot elements from both. Industrial Light & Magic has done quite a decent job and the score, by John Williams, is subdued and not one of his more memorable works.

The work of Dakota Fanning, however, is very memorable. I hadn't had the opportunity to see her work before and I was astounded. She's being compared to a young Jodi Foster and I think that's apt. I don't know whether it was make-up, CGI, good acting, or a combination but there are 40 year old eyes looking out of her 11 year old face. Tom Cruise also gives an impressive performance. One often forgets that behind all the hoopla that is Cruise's life there is a very good actor lurking about.

All in all, I give War of the Worlds four and a half nudibranchs out of five.
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