Review by James McDonald
The highly-anticipated “Independence Day: Resurgence” is bound to be one of this summer’s biggest blockbusters, if the first movie is anything to go by and even though it’s only five months away, for some, that is an eternity. I know there are many out there who will need their sci-fi fix before then so in the meantime, “The 5th Wave” should more than suffice. It is a smart, at times clunky, but always enjoyable yarn that should entertain even the most hardened scientific skeptics.
The movie introduces us to Cassie Sullivan (Chloë Grace Moretz), a regular high school teenager who lives in a small Ohio town with her mom Lisa (Maggie Siff), dad Oliver (Ron Livingston) and younger brother Sam (Zackary Arthur). The news announces the arrival of alien spaceships that begin appearing above various cities around the world and while initially they do nothing, it’s only a matter of time before that changes. Earth begins to experience massive earthquakes, tsunamis, global virus outbreaks, and those unlucky enough to survive, including Cassie and her younger brother Sam, face an even deadlier cataclysm, the aliens themselves.
While Cassie and Sam, along with other survivors from neighboring towns, reside at an old camp ground that has been transformed into a sanctuary, the military, led by Colonel Vosch (Liev Schreiber), unexpectedly shows up and claims that the aliens are getting ready to attack. They ask that all the children be put on board their vehicles so that they can be transported to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to safety. When they inform the adults that the aliens, in a twist reminiscent of John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” have the ability to assimilate humans, making them almost undetectable, panic spreads and people begin shooting. In the ensuing commotion, Cassie and Sam get separated and knowing of his destination, she flees the subsisting chaos and embarks on the long journey ahead of her, sticking mainly to the forest, away from the roads.
On her journey, she sustains a life-threatening injury but is rescued by Evan Walker (Alex Roe), a handsome stranger who, at times, appears not to be who he claims but with his help, they are able to safely reach the base. Inside, the children are being trained by the military and with a technological breakthrough, they are able to replicate the aliens’ hardware so they can positively identify the aliens but when they are sent out on their first mission, they realize that the military, particularly Colonel Vosch, has been hiding a dark secret from them, one that changes their allegiance and forces them to rethink everything they thought they believed in.
There have been countless movies about aliens attacking earth, “Independence Day,” “War of the Worlds,” “The Faculty,” and “Men in Black” and with each film, they appear to try and one-up each other with bigger explosions, bigger tsunamis, bigger earthquakes, and the aliens themselves always inhabit some truly disgusting form, complete with gnashing teeth and a never-ending supply of goo and slime that somehow always manages to envelop our protagonist(s). Here though, we only manage to glimpse the aliens, utilizing specially designed military glasses and they are reminiscent of the face huggers in “Alien,” invisibly attached to the human’s face, its legs coiled around their neck. The movie avoids the clichéd tentacles, large oval eyes, and skinny bodies typically associated with alien films and instead, after allowing us to ascertain who is human and who is not, we are able to concentrate on the story and characters.
With most stories of this ilk, the annihilation of the planet unfolds gradually over the course of the movie but director J. Blakeson makes a bold move and shows us this destruction within the first twenty minutes, thereby allowing us to concentrate solely on the various characters and their intertwining storylines. While “The 5th Wave” won’t win any awards for originality, it does employ a very likable and charismatic cast, and when rooting for the good guys, that’s half the battle.