To his credit, Cruise also makes us forget his recent public persona and remember why we loved him in the first place.  Fathers will particularly identify with his desperate attempts to connect with his children, and Cruise’s emotional vulnerability is potent.  It’s his best performance in years.  Dakota Fanning — whose sophisticated talents have often been a pretentious liability — really impresses as well.  While still displaying a maturity beyond her years, Fanning (thanks to Spielberg) is allowed to be the kid that she would be – scared and confused.

“War of the Worlds” wraps with a surprising affirmation of man’s God-ordained role as the ruling species on the planet (essentially saying as much), and its theme that men neither live nor die in vain is a stirring evocation of the firemen, policemen, and soldiers who defend us at our most harrowing hours.

Spielberg is back at the top of his populist powers.  He has created a spectacular throwback to the sci-fi flicks of his childhood while also riffing himself (the musical communication between alien tripods recalls the Mothership’s bassy brass in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”).  Destined to be his biggest box office smash since “Jurassic Park”, it’s also equal to the artistic heights reached in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “E.T.”  And in a summer that has delivered such seminal movie events as a great “Star Wars” film (finally!) and a mature, gritty “Batman Begins,” “War of the Worlds” is the best one yet.

AUDIENCE:  13 and up

OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content:  None.
  • Language/Profanity:  Numerous profanities throughout, sexual slang, and many instances of the Lord’s name taken in vain (GD’s, the name of Jesus, flippant expressions of “God”).
  • Sexual Content/Nudity:  None.
  • Violence:  Graphic invasion violence.  People disintegrated by lasers, groups wiped out, and landscapes blood-drenched.  Corpses float down rivers.  Mob violence, including fights and gun use.  Aliens eat humans.  A murder is insinuated but not shown.  General level of terror stays, and builds, throughout.