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Home » Culture and Criticism

War of the Worlds: Close Encounters, Take Two

Submitted by on April 30, 2013 – 11:32 PM9 Comments


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.

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  • MelanieRose says:

    WotW is one of those movies I can't admit to liking in my Film Studies classes (like I can't admit to hating – I mean HHAATTTTIINNGGG Godard), but it is legit one of my favorite movies. That moment with the burning train you mentioned takes my breath away every time, and I just love the bit after they get dragged out of the van & end up in the cafe and Ray's crying with frustration/fear… it's so wonderfully realistic and uncomfortable. Plus it's hard to go wrong with anything involving a Morgan Freeman voiceover…

  • avis says:

    Parapphrasing, but my fave line in the movie:
    "Do you have a plan that doesn't involve your nine year old sister joining the militia?!"

  • Otter says:

    Oooh, the train. The train redeems a lot.

  • ferretrick says:

    I was with it up till that wholly improbable and unearned happy ending.

  • Rachel says:

    I was working in Bayonne when they were filming this and I remember being pleased that they were going to blow up the town. It could only improve the place. Ran into Spielberg once at the deli, never saw Tom Cruise, even though I did swing by the set to see if the Scientology tent was set up. It was.

  • Kat From Jersey says:

    I've lately found myself unable to separate Cruise from his 'persona', so I automatically psych myself up to *not* like a film if he's the star. But, when I can get past his whole "set extras aren't allowed to look at me/Scientology" thing, I remember that he's one hell of an actor. Although lately, every Tom Cruise action thriller looks just like the next.

  • Grace says:

    I'd like to see more Cruise/Spielberg collaborations. WotW has much to recommend it, and I really liked Minority Report (except for the happy ending).

  • MinglesMommy says:

    @ Ferretrick – precisely.

    Also: I loathe Tim Robbins (NOT the nicest person in real life), so the fact that Cruise gets off him (off screen) is a high point for me. (IMHO.)

  • MinglesMommy says:

    ARGH I meant, Tom Cruise gets TO off him. Not the other thing. Yikes. Sorry.

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