Capsule Review: 'War for the Planet of the Apes'

What Matt Reeves has done in “War For the Planet of the Apes” is quite an accomplishment. The third, and presumably final, chapter in the ‘Apes’ series is one of the most entertaining movies of the year. The miraculous thing about it is that it barely has any dialogue. Sure, there are lines uttered here and there, but the fact that 99% of the apes can’t speak and the main human character, a teenage girl, is deaf, results in a film that relies heavily on visuals to tell its story. There’s no excess fat here, just pure unadulterated thrills that rely on the audience’s smarts to pull through. This is action, gloriously displayed on an epic scale, with a thrilling and groundbreaking blend of CGI and kinesthesism, especially in its breathtaking finale. Reeves has found a way to bring back expressionism and make “silent cinema” hip again this summer. Who’d a thunk it?

Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his commanding group of apes don't want war, it's the army of humans led by a ruthless colonel (Woody Harrelson) that wants it. The colonel goes out of his way to declare war, hitting Caesar on a personal level with the murder of his family and the capture of apes as his slaves. Caesar, wrestling with his darker instincts, decides to go on a quest for revenge. It all feels damn-near biblical, but more importantly undeniable cinematic. Think "The Great Escape" meets "The Ten Commandments" and you'll understand the epic level at which Reeves is working on here.

Serkis is the star of the show. It's hard to explain just how incredible his work is here, so much so that a special Oscar should be made for what will surely be a landmark effort in CGI acting. Every movement, every facial gesture is fully controlled and calculated by him. There is barely a false note, if any, in the way the motion-capture actor creates Caesar. Serkis has invented an entirely new medium of performance, it's a landmark feat.
"War" is better than "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" as it relies more heavily on character than actual war. There's no excess here, just pure unadulterated thrills that rely on the audiences smarts to pull through. Don't worry summer movie buffs, there is action, gloriously on display, especially in its final third, but Reeves is after much much more here. He's made the closest thing to a silent movie that we will likely have in today's Hollywood zeitgeist [B+]