The Tomorrow War is a big, dumb sci-fi actioner with an actual semi-functioning emotional component.
Dan Forester (Chris Pratt) is an ex Green Beret now working as a high-school chemistry teacher. His life with wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin, underutilised) and young daughter Muri (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) is idyllic, though Dan is struggling to break into the field of research science.
Which seems like a pretty minor consideration when time-travelling soldiers arrive through a wormhole, recruiting for a future war against an invasive alien species.
Zach Dean’s screenplay gives the impression of logical consistency, but it only takes the slightest of prodding to reveal plot-holes. For instance, all civilians draftees are above a certain age, meaning they’ll be dead by the time of the war, thirty years hence; presumably eliminating the possibility of contact with their future selves. However, either the timeline changes due to their intervention – in which case a paradox shouldn’t occur as it’ll be an alternate future version of them – or it remains theoretically the same, in which case the changes their absence causes to history is already paradoxical.
In any case, after literally falling out of the sky1, fate contrives to bring him face-to-face with the grown-up Mari (Yvonne Starhovski).
It’s in The Tomorrow War‘s favor that it doesn’t seem to conceal this, so evident is the fact. Pratt and Strahovski’s connection feels genuine. Dan immediately treats her as his daughter, someone he cares about. Mari’s dynamic with her father is somewhat more complex; given their not-yet-shared history. It’s a flaw in the characterization that I never bought that the Dan we’d seen so far would ever go on to do the things that go on to estrange him from his future daughter.
Chris McKay directs the film’s action effectively – mostly armed soldiers being taken out by the spiny, tentacled beasties known as Whitespikes. There’s a lot of sci-fi on display here, from the concept (elements of Terminator and Edge of Tomorrow) and a climax that plays like a generic blockbuster version of The Thing.
The Tomorrow War is elevated by its performances: Pratt as another goofy, relatable super-soldier; Strahovski playing vulnerable and hyper-competent; J.K. Simmons as Dan’s muscly, beardy, conspiracy theorist dad, who abandoned him when he was a kid2; I Think You Should Leave’s Sam Richardson as Charlie, Dan’s BFF and essentially acting as though he’s in a horror comedy.3
The Tomorrow War never rises much above the proficient, but nor does it dip too below it. Come for the decent action and spurious science, stay for a father-daughter relationship that may the best I’ve seen onscreen this year.
Take from that what you will.
The Tomorrow War is now available to stream on Prime Video in the UK and Europe and on Netflix in the rest of the globe.
- The film’s opening in media res recalls Guardians of the Galaxy as Dan quick transitions from awe to shock upon realizing that his arrival in the future is considerably higher above ground level than when he departed.
- Hence, I think we’re given to believe, the notion that he might conceivably abandon Emmy and Mari, despite there being nothing in his character to support that.
- Now wonderfully relevant.