Director: Chris McKay
Starring: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J.K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson, Edwin Hodge
We are living in a strange world at the moment, where a lot of films intended for cinema release are getting moved onto streaming services. The Tomorrow War is another example of this. It was originally intended for release last year and was pushed back and eventually acquired by Amazon for their streaming service. In some ways it’s a good thing, it means that more people get to see the film. In another way the experience of being in a cinema is missing and this is a film that would benefit from being shown on the big screen.
There is one sequence early on where there is a lot of building tension, the aliens are homing in on them and everything is quiet as the group of characters make their way up a stairway to save a group of researchers. It’s borderline horror and it works so well and would have been an amazing sequence to see on the best screen possible with no screen glare from outside or the noise of passing traffic.
The first 40 or so minutes of The Tomorrow War are absolutely fantastic. It’s gripping and engrossing in a way that most horror and action films can only aspire to. You’re introduced to Dan Forester, played by Christ Pratt (Parks and Recreation, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World), on the verge of getting a new job. He’s a work obsessed dad who wants to help the world through science. Pratt’s performance is absolutely fantastic throughout, he has a natural charm and likability about him combined with a believable and strong performance that literally carries the entirety of the film.
During the world cup final in 2022, a group of time travellers from 2050 arrive on the pitch and speak of an impending war with aliens that is due to wipe out the human race. They are looking for people from 2022 to jump to the future to join the fight. Eventually Forester is enlisted, and with prior military experience, takes a lead role in saving our species from extinction.
While the start of The Tomorrow War is fantastic, the middle section isn’t. It quickly loses steam in its second act and starts to really drag a lot. The final section is entertaining and is better than the middle, but still isn’t as good as the first part. Running at 2 hours and 20 minutes, it could really do with some tightening up and shortening down. There is a lot of pointless slow-motion that adds nothing, but pads out the already too-long run time. To add to the sluggish pacing is some very awkward and on the nose dialogue. They repeat things and emphasise points, not giving the audience enough credit that they are paying attention, that combined with an exposition briefing, makes the clunky dialogue stand out and distracts from the film itself.
Chris McKay (who previously co-directed The Lego Move, also with Pratt, as well as directed The Lego Batman Movie) does a good job directing The Tomorrow War, especially capturing the tense moments before the action starts. It builds slowly and is so engrossing that there are moments you will forget you are watching a film. When everything does get fully going, there is an action sequence with enough explosions to make Michael Bay jealous. The effects and CGI is spectacular all the way through. The aliens looks creative and scary enough, and the action sequences are stunning.
After one scene, where Pratt is first brought in to see if he is eligible for being drafted, there is a lot of chaos and confusion. It’s stands out as a strange scene, as it is obviously meant to raise questions and build the tension of the upcoming battles with no time to lose, but you’re just left with wondering if they induct everyone in the same rude way. At that point they had been drafting people for a year. How have they not got it down to a science by then? Surely, they are ahead enough by that point to be able to answer questions without ignoring them and coming across like they are treating people as nothing more than cattle.
The Tomorrow War is a reasonable entry to the long line of sci-fi action films. Parts of it are recycled from things you’ve seen before, but the characters are great, and Pratt’s performance is brilliant enough to carry the film. It does drag towards the middle, but the effects, emotional story and some very good humour elevates this enough to make it enjoyable and entertaining, and even exciting and tense at points.