I wasn't going to go. I don't like Tom Cruise anymore. But I went with Boyfriend and the rest of the New York locations department for this film. Well, almost all of them I think. There was lots of "Nice job on the intersection!"(Locations people find and manage the location for each scene). Boyfriend managed the first alien scene where the aliens first rise out of the ground and windows shatter, the church steeple falls (that was digital - didn't really happen, nor did the cracks in the earth, but it looked pretty real), and everyone is scared shitless. It was in the Iron Bound of Newark, NJ, and the whole town, who in real life consists of a bunch of Brazilians, were excited to have the film there for a few weeks (albeit lots of 'em got paid to be shut down or inconvenienced). Boyfriend also worked on the river scene in Virginia where dead bodies float down a strong river current. Five floatable dummies were used for the scene (I think), and they lost 2 of ‘em! They showed up a little later, which made a great story for the local paper.
But back to my impression (keep in mind, it's late, and I'm writing on nothing more than bad theatre nachos and mountain dew): terrifying. Not scary-movie terrifying, but 9/11 terrifying, which was Spielberg's intent. The aliens were the most terrifying and invoked feelings of helplessness at the Lowe's Kip theatre. Movie geeks and skeptics were glued to their seats while the tripods lasered everyone into thin air. Tom Cruise gave one of his best performances of the movie after he returned from seeing what they could do, unable to speak of it to his children. As with the rest of the movie, Spielberg threw in some 9/11 parallels that I won't give away, but it did cause feelings of unease. I'm not sure that I needed those feelings out of a summer thriller, but Spielberg achieved it.
The alien scenes were the only fluid scenes. All scenes with Tom in them were choppy and short, creating no flow, which was disappointing. Especially in the beginning, he might as well have been a robot. But then again, he was reacting to aliens, which were not on the set, so that may have been a strain for him.
Dakota Fanning displayed true and beautiful acting. She was supposed to be maybe 12 in the story, but she acted like a 30-year-old daughter of divorced parents, while at the same time, leading the plot twists with terrified, watery eyes.
I had issues with the discontinuity with time. There were many night scenes, and short, 30-second days. Minutes after a city was lasered into bits (if that), survivors were streaming out of the city, or maybe it was the next city evacuating. Regardless, suddenly, there were walking by a billboard of 'missing people' with nice, glossy photos and notes posed about the missing. This snapped me out of the reality of the film, and into the reality of my chair in the theatre, which was unfortunate. That was a little 9/11 detail that didn't fit in this movie. How could a 20 foot long billboard be put up, when houses were destroyed, and people were running for their lives while the aliens picked their way across the country?
In keeping with the timing discontinuity, when the first aliens rose out of the ground, and lightening struck 26 times in one place, everything stopped. Electricity, phones, cars, even watches. Airplanes couldn't fly. On day 2, an airplane dropped in a most inconvenient place. Why wouldn't it have dropped on Day 1, when everything went dead? Maybe it was because that area of the country hadn't experienced the aliens rising yet. Things like this didn't seem to add up.
Overall: see it. Yeah, I wouldn't have b/c I really don't like Tom Cruise, but the alien parts were awesome. I was really scared, but could semi-take Tom beyond a handful of emotional scenes, all the while almost getting horribly killed by the aliens, or fellow man. But the theatre experience is necessary if you're wanting to see this movie.