Yesterday I caught the end of John Ford’s masterpiece The Searchers and was struck by the famous closing image, which sees Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) framed against a dramatic backdrop by his home’s door frame.
Spielberg’s War of the Worlds shares a plot in common with The Searchers - both focus on the journey of a father as he seeks to save his children - and the director references Ford’s final scene with his final scene as Ray Ferrer (Tom Cruise) delivers his children back to their home but remains outside the building, never entering.
Although the scenes are shot very differently, the message behind them is the same. Both men have accomplished their mission, but the violent actions they’ve had to take along the way have come at the price of their innocence, humanity and connection with their family.
Neither will ever get them back.