When I saw the trailer for The Tomorrow War, frankly, I was excited. I love science fiction, I love time travel, and the actors involved are talented. It had an intriguing premise. My excitement after watching the film has not waned. While the trailer is a bit misleading, the overall story is clever, the film is absorbing, the characters are engaging, and the science is smart. There is a lot going on and some characters could use more development but it has solid action and some creepy aliens. For me, it lived up to the trailer and to the premise.
The Tomorrow War is a science fiction action film directed by Chris McKay in his live-action directorial debut. Written by Zach Dean, the movie begins when a group of strangers arrive from the year 2051 and announce that they are us. In the future, a war is being waged against deadly aliens called White Spikes. Humanity is losing the war and has come to the past to beg for help, to save the future. Civilians all over the planet are recruited to be sent 30 years forward, including Dan Forester (Chris Pratt), a scientist and ex-army who must leave his wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin) and his daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong). Thrown in with a bunch of strangers, including Charlie (Sam Richardson), also a scientist, and Dorian (Edwin Hodge), volunteering for his third jump, Dan and his group find themselves in the wrong location but quickly recruited by Colonel Forester (Yvonne Strahovski), who turns out to be Dan’s daughter, Muri. Muri has a way to fight the aliens but she needs Dan’s help to get it where it needs to go. In order to save the world and his daughter, Dan teams up with his estranged father, James (J.K. Simmons) to attempt to rewrite the planet’s fate.
While this movie is not perfect, what it does is quickly absorb you into the story and the action. Dan is quickly introduced and we learn exactly what we need to know about him to empathize with him when he’s drafted into this future war. We also get to know his daughter and as with most children in the film, she steals the scenes she’s in. We immediately understand the dilemma and while the rush to get the civilian soldiers is done in a rushed way, it feels authentic to the scenario. The future is desperate and needs help immediately. So while some things happen quickly, there are valid reasons and what it does is pull you into the action and with the fate of humanity at stake, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotional weight. Meeting Dan, Charlie, and Muri give you individuals to connect with and just enough backstory to understand. Dan served in Iran, Emmy, his wife, councils vets returning from the future war. Charlie works for a tech start-up. We also meet James, Dan’s father, and understand the estrangement between the pair, that James was a Vietnam veteran. The connection to family amongst the fate of humanity gives audiences something to root for.
One of the aspects I liked the most is that science is what solves this war, not action. Yvonne’s character figures out how to save humanity by creating a toxin. I also really like that a female character is such an integral piece to the solution and physically holds her own in fight scenes, not needing rescuing by the male protagonist. In order to make it work, Dan turns to scientific resources like Charlie. The time jump itself is done with sound scientific principles including choosing people to go forward who would have already been dead. The jump is a loop that is fixed and is explained well without talking down to audiences. And as part of those solutions, everything in the plot ties together, which I’m a fan of. I like plots that are connected and make sense, and this one does.
The aliens are creepy. All limbs, white skin, and spikes coming out of nowhere. The fight scenes with them are intense and the scenes with them swarming buildings, cars, and people are brutal and well planned. The aliens are not invulnerable but they are not easy to kill. They also breed rapidly. Their ravening hunger and the way they are shown to tear apart humans illustrate easily why they’re destroying humanity. While the fights are not as intense as in the film, Alien and the design might be similar to other alien designs, these are different enough that I found it well thought out.
The acting is straightforward. Chris Pratt does a skilled job with his character. He moves like a soldier and talks like a teacher. His delivery on his line is believable and resonates emotionally, especially in his scenes with Yvonne Strahovski and J.K. Simmons. He is emotional with the young Muri. Even in early scenes, you can connect to his character. I found Yvonne Strahovski brilliant and dynamic. She usually is but it is nice to see her play not only a smart character but one that can fight as well as the men in the film. She shines in this movie. Sam Richardson as Charlie does a wonderful performance balancing humor with the weight of fighting in a war while Edwin Hodge is intense as Dorian. Betty Gilpin has good chemistry but far too little screen time. J.K. Simmons is emotional and perfectly cast as Dan’s father and steals every scene he’s in with a powerful performance.
For me, the film isn’t perfect. There are too few scenes with Betty Gilpin for one. Her character is skimmed over. Most of the individual characterizations are well done, shown through action and dialogue but there are a few characters that feel brushed aside or set up as sacrifices. Unfortunately, those characters are easy to spot. Edwin Hodge’s character Dorian gets very little backstory. Overall, most characters are solid but at times it leaves a flatness to the emotion and the drama of the story. It also tends to leave the plot predictable because you can tell who’s going to be killed by the amount of backstory they get. Ultimately, that lessens the intensity of the fight scenes and this movie is far less intense than similar Scifi films, like Alien. However, it was absorbing and engaging due to the acting, the premise, and the action.
If you like smart scripts, with ideas similar to Alien or Terminator, this film is a blend of the two with engaging characters, family connections, creepy aliens, and science that actually works. I liked the characters. I fell into the story and loved the action. It is definitely the film to see if you want to see alien fights, time travel and a story about family.
The Tomorrow War is released exclusively on Amazon Prime July 2, 2021.
Rating: 4 out of 5 White Spikes