The Tomorrow War – review

Brief synopsis: In the future, the human race is near extinction due to an alien invasion. As the war rages on, an estranged father and daughter battle to find a way to defeat aliens and save the human race. 

Is it any good?: The Tomorrow War is a multi-million pound B-movie without the humour or amusingly bad script and actors. Taking influence from the far superior Edge Of Tomorrow (2014) in style, this Chris Pratt starrer is mostly noise and special effects with the story eliciting very little emotion. 

Spoiler territory: biology teacher and ex-military man – of course – Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is hosting a Christmas party in 2022. He has popped out to pick up a few bits and returns to the party. 

He is greeted by his young daughter, Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and makes his way to the kitchen where his wife, Emmy (Betty Gilpin), is looking after guests. 

Dan is waiting on a call about a job he has applied for, stepping out again as he receives the call. Unfortunately, he does not get the job. A frustrated Dan returns to the party. 

He joins his daughter on the sofa and the two are watching a soccer game that is being shown from Qatar. As Muri chatters away, the soccer game, which is being broadcast live, is interrupted. 

A military unit has appeared out of thin air onto the pitch. Lieutenant Hart (Jasmine Mathews) addresses the world – apparently, the world watches soccer games that happen in Qatar… – she is from the future and the human race is about to be wiped out. Okay, we’ll take your word for it. 

A year later, soldiers are being sent into the future to fight the alien threat known as Whitespikes. Their efforts are proving fruitless and the world’s military is quickly decimated. The world’s collective governments decide to start drafting civilians for the cause. 

Dan struggles to engage his students amidst the tragic events happening around the globe, with only Martin (Seth Schenall), a kid obsessed with volcanoes – it will be relevant later – showing any zeal in the classroom. The rest of the student body cannot see the point in studying with impending doom all around. 

As Dan tries to assure the kids that science can help them find a solution, he receives a text. He is to report to the local military facility. He is being enlisted. 

They fit him with a jump-band, a device fitted on his forearm that allows them to track him and will send him into the future. He is required to serve one hundred and sixty-eight hours. Seven days. Bummer. 

Elsewhere, Emmy is addressing a room of veterans. All of the veterans are injured or maimed in some way. Dan comes to visit her and shows her the arm sleeve. Emmy, knowing the chances of him returning from a mission are slim, wants the family to run.

Dan points out to her that they cannot run from the government. She tells him that they could if he would go and see his father. Dan is reluctant but Emmy persuades him. 

Dan goes to see his father, James (J. K. Simmons). James does not trust the government. Dan and his father are estranged. Probably abandonment issues on Dan’s part. It is hastily explained. He shows his father the bracelet but James thinks he has come to rat him out to the government and the two argue over his abandonment. So there is that. 

Dan returns home and tells Emmy he is going on deployment. He tells Muri that he is leaving. It’s emotional. Not really. At the centre for deployment, a rag-tag bunch of civilians are given the most basic military training in the history of military training. 

Amongst the group, besides Dan, is the talkative and nervous Charlie (Sam Richardson), who befriends Dan, the taciturn Dorian (Edwin Hodge), a man who is on his third tour and Diablo (Alexis Louder), a Dora Milaje escapee hanging out in the wrong film. 

Charlie tells Dan that he is in research and development. They both note that all of the assembled in the room are upwards of forty, whereas those running operations are in their twenties. As they are jumping twenty-eight years into the future, they assume it must mean they are all dead at that point. 

Norah (Mary Lynn Rajskub) asks why they could not just jump to a time before the invasion – like twenty-eight years before perhaps….? – lieutenant Tran (Alan Trong) explains some bollocks about it being two bridges and fragile and always moving forward, whatever that means. 

Norah asks why there are no pictures from the future or images of the aliens. Lieutenant Hart tells her that the powers-that-be thought it would hurt the recruitment process if people knew what they were up against. 

So the seventy percent failure rate or trauma of those that have gone before has no effect but photos of aliens would put would-be soldiers off? Right. 

Later in the hanger, as the new recruits prepare to bed down for the night, alarms start to sound. They are to be deployed immediately. The aliens are attacking the research centre and are about to win the war. The battalion is to be deployed to Miami Beach. 

As they begin to teleport to the future, there is a glitch and they appear in war-torn Miami. They get their first look at the aliens, the Whitespikes. They are multi-tentacled, fast-moving killing machines that can fire spikes from their tentacles. Lovely. 

Dan immediately takes charge of proceedings having been contacted by the future director of operations, colonel Forester (Yvonne Strahovski). The rest all follow his lead. That was easy. Forester tells them to go and rescue the research team in a specific location. 

Dan finds them but they are all dead. Forester tells them to leave as they plan to bomb the area. Aliens attack and Dan and the battalion escape to the streets. In the streets, the battalion ends up in a pitched battle with the aliens. Norah and Cowan (Mike Mitchell) sacrifice themselves for the rest of the battalion. 

Dan and Charlie wake up the next day on a military base in the Dominican Republic. They see Dorian and he tells them he is going to die of cancer in six months, which is why he keeps going on tours. Dan meets colonel Forester and finds out it is Muri in the future. She is a little cold towards him. 

Muri tells him she brought him there for a reason but he does not need to know the reason yet. She tells him that they have a special mission to get to the queen of the aliens because as a female she is immune to the toxin that she had created, even though it works on the males. 

Dan wants to know what happened in his life but Muri refuses to tell him. A team have trapped the queen Whitespike. Muni wants it captured so as she can create a fatal toxin. The alien fights, killing multiple soldiers but eventually, they capture it. Muri is not happy when Dan helps, telling him he could jeopardise the mission. 

She tells him why she is cold towards him and how he left her and her mother when she was a teenager. A few years later he was dead. Awkward. Later, at a different military base, Muri is working on creating the toxin with the heavily sedated queen in the room. Because that seems really safe…

Dan comes and assists her. Muri continues to run tests, the results improving every time. Muri tells Dan why he is there. He needs to take the toxin back to the past and recreate it. Muri finds the formula. This, strangely, brings the queen to life and she summons all of the aliens to attack the base. Why they did not attack before is anyone’s guess. 

Muri and Dan head for a helicopter as the aliens’ attack. The queen comes after them having been freed by her subjects. The aliens kill everyone on the base. Dan is close to returning to the past. Muri gives him the toxin. The queen grabs Muri. Dan grabs on to Muri and tries to save her but is sent back to the past. 

Dan tells Hart that they need to replicate the toxin and send it back to the future. Hart tells him that the jump link to the future is broken. Later, Dan speaks to Emmy about their daughter in the future and their failure to find a solution. 

Emmy who, it turns out, thinks a bit, works out that the aliens could be on the planet earlier. Of course, they could. Dan goes and sees Dorian, who had collected an alien spike on his first mission. Charlie examines the spike and finds volcanic ash on it. They need a volcano expert and….yes really, they talk to Martin. 

With Martin’s help, they work out that the aliens are frozen in the Russian tundra. Dan goes to see his father and asks him to help pilot a covert mission to Russia because he has a plane. A military plane. They head to Russia and find the aliens in an underground cavern, all in hibernation. They begin to inject the toxin into the aliens but the screams of the dying ones wake up the rest. 

Dorian tells Dan to leave. He will blow up the ship. No one else leaves. Dan goes after the queen. Dorian blows up the ship killing all the aliens and the crew except for Dan, James and Charlie. Dan and James battle against the queen. No idea where Charlie is. 

James and Dan keep fighting but Dan eventually kills the queen. Charlie reappears. Dan returns home and introduces Muri to her grandfather. The end. 

Final thoughts: The Tomorrow War is a passable, if not particularly creative, alien invasion film. It is too damn long but not unwatchably so. Directed by Chris McKay and written by Zach Dean, The Tomorrow War is almost an alien invasion film by numbers. There are scary, violent aliens, global stakes, the world pulling together, a heroic everyman and the repair of relations.

This is a film that just ticks boxes without ever giving the audience anything different. The hive/queen device is so overused in alien films and a lazy trope. I actually do not believe they pay anyone to create ‘aliens’ anymore as in every film they are now generic, screeching, multi-tentacled, razor-teethed fiends. 

Chris Pratt brings a five out of ten Pratt performance, barely needing to get out of second gear for this. Yvonne Strahovski is as good as ever but does not have anything to do. As I say, The Tomorrow War is not terrible but is not very good either. If you are a lover of alien invasion films you might enjoy this, otherwise, at a bum-numbing two-hour-and-twenty-minute runtime, you might want to give this one a miss.

I Am Mother – review (Netflix)

     A robot (body – Luke Hawker, voice – Rose Byrne) lives alone in a vast bunker. The bunker has been built to sustain hum life and contains over sixty thousand human embryos. The robot selects one, a female, and grows it. As the child grows, she addresses the robot as Mother. The robot addresses her as Daughter.

    Mother educates and tests Daughter (Clara Rugaard), who is now a young woman. Daughter knows nothing outside of the bunker and been told by Mother that the atmosphere is too toxic for a human to survive. When a mouse finds its way into the bunker, and Daughter finds it, she takes it to Mother. 

   Mother incinerates the rodent, telling Daughter that it could be infected. The destruction of the mouse affects Daughter. When Mother powers down to recharge for the evening, Daughter decides to venture outside. Before she can open the doors she hears pounding from the outside and then a woman’s voice. 

    The woman tells her she is hurt and needs to come in. Daughter, never having met another soul, lets her in. She tells her to put on a hazard suit before she lets her into the bunker proper. The opening of the outside door awakens Mother who comes running. Daughter leaves the woman (Hillary Swank) in the airlock room, hiding her from Mother. 

   Daughter returns to the woman and sees that she is injured. She goes to get her some medical supplies and hides the woman in a different part of the bunker, but not before she takes the woman’s gun from her bag. When Daughter returns to see her later, the woman asks for her gun. Mother finds them and comes for the woman. Daughter stops Mother from killing the woman. 

    The woman is still wary of Mother and refuses to be treated by the robot. The woman’s condition is bad and she needs an operation to remove the bullet lodged in her body. Still refusing to let the robot near her, Daughter opts to do the procedure. Daughter removes the bullet. As the woman recovers, Daughter talks to her wanting to know if there are more people outside. 

   The woman tells her of a group living underground who have been hiding from the robots and how one of them had helped her evade the robot that shot her. She has drawn illustrations of all the people in a book she carries with her. Mother interrupts them. She tells Daughter that the woman is lying about the shooting and that she was probably shot by another human. 

    Mother tells Daughter that is time for her to pick a sibling. Daughter put a male embryo into the incubator. Daughter asks the woman about the shooting. The woman asks if she had seen the bullets. Daughter waits until Mother powers down and checks the bullets. Whilst checking the bullets she has another thought and looks at the embryo birth records, she finds a picture of a young girl with information saying she was terminated. 

    She goes to the furnace and finds the remains of a lower jaw. Daughter returns to the woman. She wants to leave the bunker but wants to take her brother with her. The woman does not want to wait. Daughter tells they only have to wait twenty-four hours. Mother tricks Daughter and locks her in a lab. Mother goes to see the woman. She recorded the conversation between her and Daughter and knows they plan to escape. 

    Daughter breaks out of the lab and sets off the emergency alarms. She and the woman escape. Outside the world is barren and desolate. Daughter follows the woman to a large metal container. Daughter realises that is where she lives and she is all alone. There are no others. 

    Daughter decides to go back for her brother. Back at the bunker, she is met by an army of robots. They step aside to let her in. Inside she encounters Mother. Mother tells her that the robots, who are all a connected consciousness, wiped out the human race and that she, Daughter, was the first of a new, better race of humans. Would she take on the task? Daughter agrees. Mother shuts down. 

   Mother, in another robot, goes to visit the woman and kills her. Daughter is left to bring up her brother. The end. 

   I Am Mother mixes The Terminator’s Skynet, The Matrix and Alex Garland’s Ex Machina to fashion an okay film. Like another Alex Garland film, Annihilation, I Am Mother almost disappears up its own orifice with its need to be clever. The basic premise of the film, highly intelligent robots or androids overrunning the human race, is one that has been utilised many times in both books and films.

   There is no indication as to what caused the robots to rise up or if there had been some human reason for the eradication of the human race. The film is set at some unspecified time in the future, though it is not too far in the future as the woman recognises old video of Johnny Carson and Whoopi Goldberg from an earlier time in her life.

   Written by Michael Lloyd Green and Grant Sputore, who also directs, the script is quite good and keeps you engaged even if there is not a lot of action. The film really works due to the interactions between Byrne’s Mother and Rugaard’s Daughter. With only Daughter’s expressions to work with, Rugaard has to do the lion’s share of the emoting for the audience to feel what is happening in the film. 

    Once Swank enters the fray, the story picks up pace, with Mother and the woman both trying to convince Daughter that their vision is the one to follow. Unfortunately, that which makes the script pacy and gives the film zip also affects the storytelling, the sparseness of the script creating confusion. 

    Visually, the film is quite stunning, the futuristic bunker perfectly creating the tone and mood for the story. Rugaard’s expressive face is ably employed by Sputore, close-ups on her eyes and facial ticks pushing the story along. 

    Byrne’s voice is the perfect pitch for the role of the world remodelling Mother. She keeps the tone even, only changing in terms of pace for urgency. Swank, as would be expected, puts in a great performance as the paranoid and slightly crazed woman trying to escape the robots. 

   For me, it was too much like the third Terminator instalment, a film that also suffered from a weak ending. It did, however, have a lot more action. 

        I Am Mother is a watchable film that is not as clever as it would like to be. At a one hundred and thirteen minute runtime, it has a good build up with an ultimately unsatisfying conclusion. If you are a lover of dystopian sci-fi, you will enjoy I Am Mother, otherwise, you could probably give it a miss.