McKay lays down an incredible first act, setting up an honest and inspired relationship between Dan and Muri. There’s an early scene where the two of them are talking on the couch and we see, with intimate low angles, from the young girl’s perspective how much of a hero her dad is to her, even if he considers himself a failure.
But just as the director brings a level of attention to the small moments, he compliments them by doing so with the big ones as well, such as the arrival of the soldiers at the soccer game where we feel a level of uneasiness seeing such wild and spectacular things happening at a familiar-looking sports event. We see the future people arriving on TV, just as those sitting at home would be experiencing it. This doesn’t just look like a typical futuristic movie— it’s tied to reality.
The timeline details can get a tad murky, despite best efforts, and the second act drags a bit long, even if it’s a way of investing in the emotional weight of the characters, but The Tomorrow War is almost completely entertaining no matter what’s happening. The action sequences are wonderfully composed, utilizing suspense and deliberate choreography of even the grandest explosions and the wildest chaos. Some of the effects get a little wonky during the finale, but it’s the on-location settings and practical set pieces that make th is movie feel real.
Director Chris McKay always has a firm grasp on the realities of a bizarre circumstance like this, toeing the line between following unwritten regulations put in place for a blockbuster movie and remembering that there are humans at the center of it.