Throughout this pandemic, I haven’t focused nearly as much on finding and watching the best of the best the film industry has to offer. I still crave great performances, top-tier scripts, and directors working to their fullest potential, and we’re still getting a lot of these offerings throughout the year despite all the delays, which is a struggle I’m sure any film fan can find relatable. But sometimes, all you need on a Friday evening is a quick palette cleanser only a big-budget action movie can provide. This one happens to be an Amazon Prime Original movie starring Chris Pratt and Yvonne Strahovski. It’s The Tomorrow War, and it involves time travel and an alien war of the future we can’t hope to win.
The story follows Dan Forester (Pratt), an Iraq war veteran providing for his family as a high school science teacher as he yearns for opportunities in the private military sector to better utilize his experience. Upon learning he lost out on another of those jobs, a portal opens in the middle of the World Cup pitch spitting out a battalion of soldiers claiming to be from the future and informing the public that in 30 years time, the planet will be at war with an alien race known as the White Spikes. The only hope against extinction is to send soldiers from our time to the future, which may bolster the war effort and buy as much time for humanity as possible.
The film’s pace is one of its greatest assets, never forcing the audience to linger on its time travel explanations or family drama long enough to let us question the legitimacy of what’s going on. The Tomorrow War won’t exactly hold up under the heat of an interrogation lamp. It does however give us ample exposition on the where, why, and how we’re getting to the future with enough flare and sci-fi magic to make us want to go on this journey with Forester.
There’s a subplot with J.K. Simmons as Forester’s absentee father who also happens to be an off-the-grid, anti-government, engineer genius whom Dan resents for not participating in his life and thus won’t let him meet his granddaughter or have a second chance for a relationship with him. It’s all rather cliché and concludes in the most predictable and unsatisfying way possible, but at least they had the good sense to cast Simmons (in an uber-jacked form, no less). You’re here for an action movie, not a Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, so you should suspend your disbelief accordingly.
You should suspend your disbelief.
Using wormhole logic, the characters of The Tomorrow War eventually go 30 years into the future to face the White Spikes, an alien race they’ve never even seen before. Right off the bat, the body count stacks up tremendously, requiring a content advisory for how much gore takes place early on. The initial scenes in the future should actually kill everyone involved, but the movie just wants to cut right to the alien ass-kicking, which is understandable.
At this point in the movie, the real fight finally begins. Forester sets up communications with a Colonel played by Yvonne Strahovski, his eyes and ears. The following sequence is movie monster, sci-fi action at its best as Director Chris McKay slows the crew down to silence their footsteps as they traverse empty streets and harrowing stairs, focusing on Pratt as he listens for what might be lurking above or below them. The silence builds the tension, aided by one of Forester’s squadmates, Charlie (Sam Richardson, the film’s comic relief). It isn’t long before the team spots the dreaded White Spikes.
The real fight finally begins.
I won’t spoil what the White Spikes look like with a description (you do see glimpses in the trailer). But they are some of the most impressive monster designs combined with CGI work that I have ever seen in any entertainment medium. Period. These White Spikes are nasty, smart, vicious, and downright terrifying. The isn’t a horror movie, but they keep those goosebumps on your arm where you need them. At times, their swarm reminds me of the zombies from World War Z, but somehow the thought of being in a zombie apocalypse over this war seems way more comforting.
And this is all just the beginning. The Tomorrow War kicks into different gears over the course of the movie, but one of the more satisfying through lines is Pratt’s dynamic with Strahovski, the Colonel who might know of a way to stop these aliens for good. They have great chemistry, better than he has with just about anyone else in the film. It’s these calm moments in between action set pieces that makes the movie all the more watchable.
As a leading man tasked to do quite a lot, Pratt carries the film extremely well. Perhaps it’s because he played a more grounded solider in Zero Dark Thirty, but I found him to be perfectly believable. He has plenty of moments to show how badass he is, moments that I’m sure his father-in-law, Arnold, would appreciate. This is good popcorn entertainment at its finest, and if on a Friday night you’re looking for something dumb, loud, and fun with incredible set pieces and monster mayhem, I say you can’t go wrong with this one.
The Tomorrow War is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. You can watch the full trailer here.