There’s no hyperbole in calling War for the Planet of the Apes the best of the franchise, just as there is no overstating the series’ contribution to motion capture performance. With each Apes installment, the technology gets a little better, but what makes War special is not simply that the technology has become more refined, but the storytelling as well.

Set two years after the events in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar (Andy Serkis) continues to lead his army of genetically enhanced apes against the last few outposts of humankind. The war is hard-fought, and with dwindling support, the humans have become more ruthless, more fundamental in their execution. The Colonel (Woody Harrelson) strikes a personal blow to Caesar, murdering his wife and child while they sleep, clouding Caesar’s mind with rage and vengeance.

Directed by Matt Reeves, War narrows a global conflict into a personal drama of blood revenge and blind belief that continually ratchets up the tension until one gigantic and cathartic release spills forth onto the screen. With action pieces, an intricate side story between Maurice (Karin Konoval) and a mute war orphan (Amiah Miller), and The Colonel’s righteous indignation, War for the Planet of the Apes is a smartly crafted summer blockbuster with plenty on its mind. A fitting conclusion to a prescient trilogy.

War for the Planet of the Apes is in wide release.