Lightning storms herald the arrival of alien monsters in Spielberg's refreshingly dark and brutal remix of H G Wells' sci-fi classic The War Of The Worlds. There is no Independence Day bombast here; everything is told through the eyes of Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), an ordinary man whose only concern is the safety of his children (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin). As the world around them is engulfed in flames, survival may be the best they can hope for.
There are three Steven Spielbergs. First up is warm, fuzzy Stevie, who makes life-affirming slush like The Terminal. Then there's Serious Steven, who makes worthy films about Important Issues. And finally, you have psycho Steve, who just wants to creep up behind you and yell "Boo!" Psycho Steve is the guy who made Jaws, Jurassic Park, the best bits of Minority Report, and (yes!) War Of The Worlds. The story may be sci-fi, but the product is a horror film, plain and simple: a brilliantly constructed scaring machine.
"GRIPS YOU LIKE A BEAR-TRAP"
Cruise is on fiery form, exploiting the sharky side of his personality to expose Ray's frailties, and he's well matched by Fanning's panicking child, in a performance so genuinely traumatised that it's uncomfortable to watch. The only bum note is sounded by Tim Robbins, hamming it up dreadfully as a Schnapps-pickled survivalist.
Beginning as an alien reworking of Saving Private Ryan and quickly evolving into a feast of stunning imagery ripped straight from a nightmare, WOTW astounds, alarms and grips you like a bear-trap. Psycho Steve is back. Hold on to your popcorn.