Wednesday, August 24, 2005

War of the Worlds

2005, US, directed by Steven Spielberg

Say what you will about Spielberg, but he's rarely ponderous, throwing the viewer into the heart of the story right from the starting gun. War of the Worlds is no exception: the opening segment of the movie is a tour de force of economic, cut-to-the-chase filmmaking, with an exceptional grasp of the mechanics of fear. The early scenes rapidly sketch in Ray Ferrier's (Tom Cruise) place in the world - a blue collar New Jersey worker with a divorce behind him and two kids who live the good life with their stepfather - but we've barely even absorbed this information before the skies darken and a terrifying lightning storm begins. Within minutes, it's clear that this is no ordinary weather event, and the pace ratchets up fast, panic filling the air as no-one can quite grasp what's happened to their city. The 9/11 echo is overt here: inexplicable terror on an otherwise ordinary day, with a devastated population unsure of how to respond (and transportation at a standstill). It's no surprise that the breakneck pace can't be sustained throughout - a dark basement and Tim Robbins slow things down considerably, without adding much to the story - but Ray's gradual ascent, along this journey, to something resembling (belated) adult responsibility is reasonably convincing. The terror outside remains almost entirely unexplained, ultimately unlike 9/11, but the sense of panic of those early post-attack days is both gripping and disturbing.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States