I'm rarely left this speechless after a film, so allow me to quote another review of War of the Worlds I read recently: Steve, I never knew you had it in you.
Indeed, I would have been hard pressed to believe before hand that Spielberg had the cojones to make this brutal a film. Granted, this is the same man who brought terror to the water in Jaws and directed the D-Day sequence in Saving Private Ryan, but this is a whole different area here. I walked out of the theater shell shocked, and it didn't help my state of mind when I saw dark clouds outside that were eerily similar to those above New Jersey in the film. I'm left after the film not able to do one of my conventional reviews, so allow me to touch upon the high points (Here be spoilers):
Show of hands: How many people noticed that Cruise's character works in a high tech machine that stands very high off the ground and picks up objects (kinda like a tripod)? I'm not exactly sure what this is supposed to signify, but it was a neat little detail.
It's been said that Steven Spielberg's Jaws, as good as it is, is largely responsible for the Summer movie phenomenon that now dumps oh-so-many big budget travesties into our local theaters every year. The same kind of complaint can be said for John Williams in that, as good a composer as he is, his work has influenced others to simply drown out films in music, leading audiences down every emotional cue. You must give him and Spielberg credit, then, for practicing some restraint with this film. Their faith in the visuals and sound effects have allowed them to draw back and let these elements speak for themselves. A lesser director would have made the horrible mistake of putting in some "exciting" music during Cruise's escape from the first tripod as people are zapped into dust around him. Thank heavens Spielberg isn't one of them.
Spielberg does a very nice circular camera shot around the moving minivan. I know it was probably done with the help of CGI, but I'd still like to see the "making of" when the DVD comes out to see exactly how they managed it.
Way back when, some friends and I rented John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. The film was by no means perfect, but one concept intrigued me: The reception of grainy video footage ... from the future. The footage is of the front of a church with a dark figure standing in the doorway backed by a flood of light. There's nothing incredibly original or spectacular about this, but the format itself made it seem more real, and thus more frightening.