Year Released: 2005
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Tom Cruise, Justin Chatwin, Dakota Fanning, Tim Robbins, Miranda Otto Narration: Morgan Freeman
(PG-13, 116 min.)
"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." Alfred, Lord Tennyson
War of the Worlds is a lot like our favorite summer pastimes -- the heart in your mouth freefall of a roller coaster ride, the sweet but insubstantial joy of cotton candy. Thrills and delights, but not much more.
The story line, a sudden ruthless attack long planned by aliens intent on taking over our world, has been told by now in many variations. And at different times, these aliens played out the fears of the era – the Nazi, Communist, or present terrorist threat. Orson Welles gave the tale a never forgotten twist when he broadcast it as a real invasion covered on the radio in 1938. Since his only disclosure of its fictional content came at the show’s opening, it indeed created real panic in those tuning in during the broadcast.
Spielberg’s version tells the familiar tale through the eyes of a divorced dad Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) in charge of his kids for the weekend. It is refreshing to see super star Tom Cruise blend into the muted grays of working class anonymity so comfortably. He is a regular guy, easing sea containers onto waiting trucks as he works his crane with the same deft hands that piloted his Top Gun jet into the sky. There are few close ups of the famous mug in the opening scenes, and more likely a grimace than a the mega watt smile as he copes with a precocious daughter Rachel (Dakota Fanning), a surly adolescent son Robbie (Justin Chatwin) in his dubious care for the weekend.
His refrigerator contains what might be left when someone skips out on a lease – souring milk, and half empty mustard and ketchup bottles. Ex-wife Mary Ann, now obviously pregnant with the child of her prosperous and dependable husband, winces as she inspects the disordered kitchen, the messy bedroom that the children must share, and reluctantly leaves to visit her parents in Boston. Ray deals with the situation by advising Rachel to order out as he heads to the bedroom to catch some sleep from his shift work.
He wakes up to three surprises – Rachel’s version of ordering out is humus on organic pita, Robbie is not working on his school paper but has disappeared with his dad’s wheels, and there is an awesome storm sky just outside the back door. Then lightning strikes begin to crash with unnatural regularity all around them, the electricity goes off, and outside every single car is dead.
Telling rachel to stay put, Ray goes out to find out what is going on. He finds Robbie and sends him home, then joins the swelling crowd that watches in disbelief as the street splits wide open like an overstretched seam, buildings unzip, and shell-shocked bystanders gasp at the nightmare of metal that erupts from the earth. Visions of the World Trade Center come to mind as citizens flea in terror, covered in the ash of disintegrating concrete. But it is not terrorists this time.
Ray commandeers the one car that functions, thanks to his earlier advice about changing the solenoid, and escapes with his two children just as the alien war machines begin zapping his neighbors into dust.
Having spent so much time setting up the family dynamics -- nice but detached and irresponsible dad, an obvious failure compared to stable step dad, wise beyond her years Rachel, who offers advice on how Dad can get through to surly and resentful Robbie -- Spielberg all but abandons this ripe situation for a thrill a minute series of narrow escapes. He might at least have shown the father and son attempting to thwart the alien invaders in a feat of male bonding bravura. (I was sure his skill as a crane operator would help Ray achieve some small triumph over the ray hurling tripods.) But Spielberg settles for some episodes that show the seamy side of crowd control, and for diversion casts Tim Robbins in the role of unhinged holdout - he does crazy so well it is scary -- bent on dealing out single-handed revenge upon the invading creatures.
Any attempt to unite the father and son in survival strategies falls by the wayside when rebellious teenager Robbie leaves the family to watch what he thinks will be a military rout as our tanks and missiles arrive on the scene. This sudden urge to fight the enemy also seems a little out of character for Robbie, who up until now has seemed content to filter out the world with his headphones. And the army he follows in pied piper mindlessness is strangely no more modern than the tanks that lit up the screen in futile battle some fifty years ago as Godzilla or King Kong raged across our cities.
While Ray does rise to the occasion by keeping himself and his loved ones one step ahead of disaster, he and the rest of humankind are portrayed as passive victims whose only advantage lies in being fleet of foot, or flattening themselves against the wall while a mechanical snakelike probe slithers past. In the fifties version of the film, scientists worked tirelessly to understand and combat the invaders, and though their demise had nothing to do with theses efforts, at least we had an active and rational counter offensive. Except for the largely ineffectual army -- an ever- present Hollywood image –the only two who resist are a misguided teenager and an unhinged hermit.
My advice to Hollywood: Forget the supposedly safe water of endless sequels, prequels, and redoes and venture out into the dangerous currents of creativity, innovation, and imagination.
While Ray is less than impressed with his daughter’s choice of takeout fare – his reaction to humus is like an infant’s first taste of solid food –Rachel should not give up on her dad. After all, in true Spielberg fashion, the children have most of the sense anyway. And no mother ever let that sour mug stop her from moving on from bottles to baby food. It’s time for Ray to educate his taste buds.
Our version of humus is particularly tasty and can be substituted for your typical party dip or just join in their company. Dip in the chips, spread on crackers, or fill the hollow of a celery stick for an especially healthy appetizer. And after such an ordeal, Ray, wash down with a tall cool one.
"My mother's family is Lebanese and we pride ourselves on being able to cook delicious Lebanese food. This is a family recipe." Rose's Granddaughter
- 10 ounces chickpeas, slightly drained
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 8-12 tablespoons tahini (pureed sesame)
- 10 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
1. Using a blender, blend the first six ingredients.
2. Serve in a large flat bowl.
3. Sprinkle paprika over the finished product and serve with bread.
4. Add more lemon and salt according to taste.
5. For softer texture, add more oil.
Recipe Source: Recipezaar
Having a hard time finding Tahini paste? Here’s some advice from Tim Brown:
“You are now ready to add my secret ingredient, peanut butter. Humus recipes always call for tahini paste, which is made from ground sesame seeds. It comes in little jars and compared to peanut butter is quite expensive. Once when I didn't have any tahini paste I substituted peanut butter out of desperation and found I preferred the flavour. When I mentioned my discovery to my friend the chef, he told me all the restaurants use peanut butter to save money. So there you have it: peanut butter is cheaper and tastes better too. I always use organic peanut butter with no additives, because we bought a large jar of it once for sentimental reasons and the kids won't eat it. I always put in a good dollop, say about a cup if you want to get anal retentive about quantities. I always add a tablespoon of tahini paste, even though I prefer the taste of peanut butter, because we still have a jar of that too and I can't imagine what else to do with it." Tim Brown, Management of Technology MBA, SFU Business