With the greatness that Spielberg has crafted in the past, one can't help but be disappointed by his latest effort, an adaptation of the classic alien invasion novel by H.G. Wells. The plot is pretty conventional (especially if one has seen a few similar films and most any Spielberg effort) and thus is nothing to write home about. What is most disappointing is that the film is clearly rushed, with special effects that are decent but nothing spectacular (LOTR and The Day After Tomorrow both feature better FX than this film). The aforementioned plot is devoid of anything resembling a twist save for a few tidbits regarding the alien's origins. Perhaps the aspect most likely to hamper the film is that unlike TDAT, there are surprisingly few scenes that could be considered "money shots." Instead, we are shown the aftermath of destruction. How disappointing when it had to be obvious to Spielberg that people want to see destruction. Heck, the trailer for TDAT featured more money shots than the entiriety of Spielberg's film. Another negative is that although the film is relatively short for its genre (the film is essentially a disaster film with Aliens taking over for weather), it drags at times with too much occuring offscreen.
The performances are decent with Cruise left with a character a bit more unlikeable than one would expect and Fanning given not much to do other than look frightened and shriek at the top of her lungs. I hate to say it, but she was much, much better in January's 'Hide and Seek' with Robert De Niro.
The film does occasionally ratchet up the tension, especially after introducing Tim Robbins' unhinged persona. The sequence with the alien "eye" and, later, the aliens themselves searching the cellar is certifiably intense, harkening back to a similar scene in the original Jurassic Park when the raptors searched for the two children in the kitchen.