Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll undoubtedly say it again: Tom Cruise is very nearly the definition of ‘contradiction’ for me. On one hand, I think the man is a delusional wackjob member of a highly placed and sinister cult, who is somewhat out of touch with ‘reality’, and is fueled by a gargantuan ego. On the other hand, he has a terrific work ethic and brings charm and determination to pretty much any role he tackles. In the last decade or so, Cruise has embarked on a love affair with the sci-fi genre, beginning in 2002 with ‘Minority Report’ and continuing with ‘War of the Worlds’ (2005) and ‘Oblivion’ (2013). He follows those ‘hits’ with this newest flick…a flick that deserves SO much more love at the domestic box office than it’s getting. It’s doing well overseas, but, as of this writing, has yet to break the $100 million mark here in North America. And that’s a shame. It’s not that I’m clamoring for a sequel or franchise based on this, as the material is perfectly suited as a ‘stand alone’ (not to mention not having much room to move beyond how this one ends), but I do think that more ‘bank’ and ‘word of mouth’ is warranted. At a time when every goddamn movie that comes out of Hollywood is yet another sequel, remake, or reboot, and the half-way intelligent movie-goers are starting to voice their collective dismay over the apparent state of creative bankruptcy that’s overcome Tinseltown, one would think that this flick would be welcomed with open arms…and wallets. But alas, nowhere near what it SHOULD be.
‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is an American adaptation of a Japanese Manga graphic novel named ‘All You Need is Kill’ (published in 2004), and is directed by Doug Liman (Go). Originally, the movie shared the original title, but somewhere along the way, someone determined THAT name would possibly alienate potential audiences with it’s ‘lost in translation’ cadence. Personally, I have no problem with the change, as ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ perfectly encapsulates the flavor of the plot, which goes like this:
In the near future, a meteorite impacts somewhere in central Europe, unleashing a horde of deadly alien creatures nicknamed ‘Mimics’. The aliens lay waste to the area and spread with merciless speed and purpose. Mankind bands together to form a multi-national army to fight this threat, using the most high-tech weaponry available, most notably armored and weaponized exo-skeleton ‘mech’ suits. These suits increase the speed and strength of the wearer, while also offering up an assortment of more traditional armaments (machine guns, rockets, mines etc) to fight the legions of creatures with. The day before the proposed invasion of Europe (futuristic D-Day), an American military propaganda officer named ‘ William Cage’ (Tom Cruise) discovers that he’s being embedded with one of the first units to hit the beaches of France (crossing from the UK) at the onset of the attack. Being a natural coward who’s lived a cushy life up to this point, ‘Cage’ panics and tries every tactic to get excused from this potential ‘suicide mission’, going so far as to try blackmailing his British Commanding Officer (Brendan Gleeson). Of course, the CO doesn’t take kindly to the threat and busts ‘Cage’ down to ‘Private’, resulting in him being rolled into the misfit-laden ‘J’ Squad. With no time to train, he’s sealed into a suit of mech-armor and strapped into a troop transport, flying into the heart of battle. Almost immediately, the attack is a violent disaster and ‘Cage’ is killed while destroying an attacking ‘Mimic’ with a Claymore mine…abruptly waking up back on the flight line, the day before. Realizing that his contact with ‘Mimic’ blood has sent him into this repeating loop of time, he seeks out ‘The Angel of Verdun’ Rita (Emily Blunt), a celebrated hero in the military due to her victorious charge at a previous battle with the aliens. Turns out, she too was once in contact with the ‘Mimics’ blood, and used the resulting time loop to her advantage. Together, the two work on perfecting their methods and planning, to change the outcome of the upcoming battle.
This movie is VERY well executed. There’s many different aspects that are worthy of mention. First off, while ”Groundhog Day’ meets ‘Saving Private Ryan’ meets ‘Pacific Rim” would be a fitting synopsis, it’s unfair to merely dismiss it so easily…as it seems extended audiences have done. It takes some of the best ‘flavors’ of those films and uses them interestingly, and in ways that aid in the progression of the story, which in itself is clever and engrossing.
The action sequences are all top-notch. The earlier reference to ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (1998) is perfectly appropriate, as the Beach Battle scenes all have THAT hand-held immediacy that sticks you there among the carnage, filtered through a dreary, bleak and desaturated lens. It’s a confused mess of movement and sound that acts appropriately as the terrifying back-drop to ‘Cage’s combat trials and tribulations. The large-scale shots of the ‘invasion in progress’ are impressive in scope, especially when the airborne fleet of large tilt-rotor transport craft start getting unceremoniously blown out of the sky. I understand the reason for the PG13 rating, but this flick could’ve benefited from some serious ‘Starship Troopers’-level blood-letting. There is VERY little spilled crimson here. However, as if to make up for that, the ‘implied’ deaths are quick, brutal and often surprising.
The characters are well-realized, even the supporting ones in the peripherals of the story, and the actors all make the effort to make it all work. Cruise, as usual, gives it his ‘all’, playing a character seemingly opposite to Cruise’s instincts as an actor. When we first meet ‘Cage’, the guy is a total pussy, being almost repulsive in his manner of avoiding his duty as a soldier during war-time. His first few tries in the time-loop of battle are amusing, as he’s a scared klutz who’s probably as much of a threat to his squad as the ‘Mimics’ are. But as the story progresses, so does ‘Cage’. It was nice to see a character who had a solid and satisfying ‘arc’. The same can be said of ‘Rita’. Emily Blunt did a good job with this character, a female who isn’t required to bring the ‘sexy’ to the story. She’s a tough bitch who can hold her own. The sequences in which she trains ‘Cage’ are cool and amusing. We also get the legendary Bill Paxton (Aliens) as ‘Cage’s platoon commander, chewing the scenery and barking out ‘drill sergeant’ cliche’s like a pro. Brendan Gleeson, while somewhat physically ‘soft’ for his role, brought the usual gravity that he’s known for.
This story has a surprising amount of evenly distributed and well-timed humor, most of which is derived from ‘Cage’s ‘Groundhog Day’isms. Scene’s where he starts getting a handle on the mechanics of the time-loop were frequently chuckle-worthy.
The digital effects were impressive, with huge fleets of attack aircraft rumbling over the battle ground among scathing attacks from below and groups of spastic-seeming ‘Mimics’ thrashing through the sand as they attacked the invading troops. The ‘mech’ suits were sweet and the blend between practical effects and CG was pretty much seamless. The Sound Design was also very kick-ass.
If I had to bitch about SOMETHING, I’d say that ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ felt like it verged, and I stress VERGED, on being too long. Luckily, right when I was wondering about the run-time, the flick kicked into the logical ‘next gear’ and pulled me right back in.
All in all, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ was a VERY welcome addition to the Big Budget Science Fiction Genre and further proof that Tom Cruise, while being a fucking lunatic in Real Life, can still command and carry a full movie with dedication and skill. It’s a clever, amusing, exciting and thought-provoking flick in which a LOT of shit gets blown up real good and the stakes actually seem like they mean something. It just sucks that, in that crazy, nonsensical way that Hollywood judges the success of a movie, this one will probably be considered a flop (despite easily making back it’s budget in over-seas box office receipts). It’s bound to join the ranks of recent sci-fi like ‘Pacific Rim’ (2013) and ‘Dredd’ (2012); good, solidly-entertaining and well-made movies that, for one reason or another, just didn’t drum up the business that everyone expected. And in conjunction with those two, I’m sure ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ will have a future as a high-budget Cult Film that will find it’s legs and audience over time. However, I do highly recommend this one for a viewing on The Big Screen. It deserves it…and is worth it. Go check it out!!!

PS- The 3D wasn’t overwhelmingly awesome…but it did add to the experience. Especially during the battle scenes…of which there were many.

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