This is one freaky movie, full of thrills and fantastic visual effects. It's much more episodic than Spielberg's usual stuff, but that's the nature of the story he's telling - the story of Cruise trying to get his kids to safety from the alien invasion. Also, don't expect Cruise to do any typical action-heroic stuff. He's much more concerned with keeping his family safe than saving the world. But it's pretty loyal to H.G. Wells' book, including the opening and ending narration (I won't tell you who does that, but it's pretty cool.) And there are allusions to 9/11 all over the place here, something that Spielberg has readily admitted. Some have complained that after about 90 minutes of nonstop thrills, the film bogs down when the clan runs into Tim Robbins, still in partial "Mystic River" mode as a creepy survivor determined to launch a "surprise attack" against the marauding tripods. But that sequence has its merits as well.
The most astounding thing about "War of the Worlds" is the speed at which this ambitious above-average film was made. Remember that this was pretty much a gap-filller of a project for both Cruise and Spielberg, who had respective jobs that were postponed prior to singing on to this. If nothing else, this movie is a testament to landing on one's feet and making maximum effort to spend one's time efficiently.
3 1/2 stars