War of the Worlds: Close Encounters, Take Two
A fantastic two hours; I didn't get bored once. I like Tom Cruise so much more when he's playing a borderline douche, as he does here.
He's a douche of sorts in Top Gun, but the movie isn't in on it the way it is here, or in A Few Good Men and Rain Man. When the movie's in on it, it's really fun.
A Spielberg movie that has a sense of humor about both itself and Cruise…when humanity is under attack? Amazing. And I kept thinking, when I wasn't spotting random well-regarded redhead actresses who had only one or two lines (Amy Ryan, Julie White, Becky Ann Baker) or The Good Wife day players (Peter Gerety, Yul Vasquez), or cringing away from a horribly beautiful shot like the ghost train on fire or that gorgeous hideous snowfall of empty clothing…I kept thinking, this is the movie I wanted Close Encounters of the Third Kind to be, from an entertainment-levels standpoint. My memory of Close Encounters is of people I liked (Dreyfuss, Truffaut) in a series of self-indulgent vignettes that had nothing to say. Well, except perhaps "the wunderkind has disappeared into his own navel with a gallon Ziploc of Thai stick, but Jaws made a bazillion dollars, so this is us pretending we 'get it.'" But there's nothing to get.
War of the Worlds has plenty to get. It's not perfect — Dakota Fanning is great, but she's given too much screaming to do, plus the sequence in Harlan's basement is draggy (and I wondered how many times Spielberg had to choreograph that Cruise/Tim Robbins tussle before realizing there just isn't any way to hide that Robbins is foot taller; I'd put the over/under at 23). But it's not dull, and even when it's ugly (that carnivorous bunghole Ray gets sucked into towards the end), it's fun to look at, and I'm glad I spent the time.
Tags: A Few Good Men Amy Ryan Becky Ann Baker Close Encounters of the Third Kind Dakota Fanning Francois Truffaut Jaws Julie White Peter Gerety Rain Man Richard Dreyfuss short dudes Steven Spielberg The Good Wife Tim Robbins Tom Cruise Top Gun War of the Worlds Yul Vasquez