Edge of Tomorrow – Review



starstarstarblank

When it’s okay to hit the reset button

Edge of Tomorrow is horrible if looking only at its title. Totally generic-sounding with no real appeal. And while the advertising campaign does the film no real favors, aside from highlighting Tom Cruise looking like a MechWarrior blowing away alien creatures to smithereens, the real attraction is the film’s loopy concept. If one were to pitch it as an original movie it would be as Groundhog Day meets Gears of War. So how are audiences to buy into such a wild idea? That answer is simple: Tom Cruise.

Walking much taller than his five-foot-seven frame would indicate, Cruise has remained a box office star for nearly 30 years. To put it into perspective, he felt the need for speed when the likes of Robert Pattinson and Shia LaBeouf hadn’t been born. His birth certificate may indicate that he’s fifty-one, but to look at Cruise you don’t see a man that is on the back end of his career. The man looks forty and continues to prove why he’s one of the hardest workers in showbiz, still putting the young crop of action stars to shame.

To watch Cruise in the beginning, as a military spinmeister for an ongoing war in Eastern Europe involving the UDF (United Defense Force) and an alien race referred to as Mimics, you see a man of confidence that does the job he’s been assigned: sell the war and be direct but amiable when appearing on news outlets like the BBC, Sky News and CNN. It is in this preface that we get shades of the satirical sci-fi works of Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers), as the montage of the ongoing war with Cruise’s Major William Cage doing his best to package something and make it sound appealing. He’s providing lip service in effort to entice civilians into deadly combat. Basically Don Draper in a military uniform.

That confident façade changes when General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) orders him to ship out with troops making landfall during a major incursion. Cage would be accompanied with a camera crew to document the invasion, led by Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who scored a victory against the mimics at Verdun and has consequentially been thrust upon the world stage as a hero aptly nicknamed Full Metal Bitch. But Cage is reluctant telling the general, “I do this to avoid doing that,” indicating that this once professional ad man switched to military spin-doctoring as an avenue to continue doing some form of advertising. Yet, for all we know, Cage may have never achieved the rank of major. It’s a good enough title where the viewing public would easily accept as truth at face value.

Cruise was so gung-ho as Maverick twenty-eight years ago and now he’s a manipulative pawn that would rather be coward than courageous when called upon. Busted to private after refusing a direct order, he is mixed in with the infantry grunts on the eve of the major invasion. During the actual invasion, which echoes the assault on Omaha Beach on D-Day, only this time with aerial freefall onto the beach instead of amphibious landings, Cage kills a special mimic and himself with an incendiary device only to then awake at the beginning of the previous day, handcuffed on the Heathrow training base. Repeating the events of the day prior, yet still retaining memory of everything that has transpired, Cage finds himself in a loop. He inevitably dies and is reborn over and over again. Each time Cage survives longer in combat; able to use his memories of what the alien AI does during the invasion. The concept is similar to getting frustrated with playing a video game and needing to hit the reset button when you can’t overcome an obstacle or make it to the next level. To combat the repetitiveness Cage connects with Rita who experienced a similar situation at Verdun. Right before they are killed she tells him, “Come find me when you wake up.” Thus begins Pvt. Cage’s transformation from coward to Captain Courageous.

Based on the Japanese graphic novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow makes a strong case as the summer’s most satisfying blockbuster because of its combination of story, humor, action and primary characters.

Repetition can become a bore if not done properly. A prime example would be 2008’s Vantage Point, which depicted the attempted assassination of the President of the United States where it was told and re-told from different perspectives. Ultimately, it became an interesting idea that was negated by poor editing. Rather than repeat entire scenes, Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Go) shows us just enough so the audience understands Cage is in another loop. James Herbert who has edited a number of Guy Ritchie productions is smart with his cuts, allowing the action to continuously flow. In the process we get some nice quips involving Cruise. Those who don’t like the thespian will revel in seeing him die multiple times on screen. Those who enjoy Cruise as an actor can appreciate his sporting wit and one-upmanship with Bill Paxton, who plays his commanding officer.

The two phrases that spring to mind when talking about Edge of Tomorrow with others is workhorse and button-mashing. The first refers to Cruise and his overall tenacity with action-oriented roles. But don’t overlook Emily Blunt. She is a kick-ass wildebeest. Her Rita character draws comparisons to the heroines closely associated with James Cameron: Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley (Aliens) and Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Conner (The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day). Blunt is totally credible as an action heroine alongside Cruise, and while this is definitely Cruise’s picture, Blunt shows Hollywood that she can aptly fill spots mostly reserved for the likes of Angelina Jolie or Kate Beckinsale.

The button-mashing phrase comes from acknowledging that Edge of Tomorrow dwarfs all video games that have been translated to the big screen. Yes, the source material is a graphic novel and not a video game, but damn if it wouldn’t make for a great one. While the ending is a bit abrupt, the story’s concept and Cruise’s ability to loop is clearly outlined, and it is just clever enough that each new reset doesn’t feel like a wasted opportunity.

Director: Doug Liman
Writer(s): Christopher McQuarrie and Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth, based on “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Notable Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Noah Taylor

Tags: , ,