EDGE OF TOMORROW
Thought provoking and engaging.
Film Review © 2014 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Doug Liman; Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Heny Butterworth; From the novel by "All You Need Is Kill" by Hiroshi Sakurazaka.
Starring: Tom Cruise (as a Major Cage), Emily Blunt (as Rita), Brendan Gleeson (as General Brigham); Bill Paxton (as Master Sergeant Farell), Jonas Armstrong (as Skinner), Tony Way (as Kimmel); Kick Gurry (as Griff), Franz Drameh (as Ford), and Dragomir Mrsic (as Kuntz), Charlotte Riley (as Nance); Masayoshi Haneda (as Takeda), Terence Maynard (as Cruel Sergeant), Noah Taylor (as Dr. Carter), Lara Pulver (as Karen Lord); Madeleine Mantock (as Julie) and dozens more.
Tom Cruise at his finest! Not every actor is able to convincingly look both desperate and decisive at the same time, but Cruise excels in this dichotomy. Not every actor is able to convincingly elevate his character from an obnoxiously pathetic and whimpering elitist slob of a human being to an overtly confident, Dudly-do-right, G.I. Joe warrior who's committed to a do-or-die mission to kill alien invaders, but again, Cruise excels in this dichotomy.
It's really easy to be leery of films that deal with time travel, because more often than not these films are poorly conceived, poorly written, and poorly executed. Case in point, the use of time travel to re-boot of the Star Trek franchise, which was an insult to both the fan base and to anyone with a common sense understanding of time travel. Paramount Pictures, which owns "Star Trek," should have anchored the re-boot around the entertaining series of books written by William Shatner, which unlike the films, "boldly" continued the franchise. Instead, most recently Paramount gave us their unimaginative "Star Trek Into Darkness," (yuck!) which is nothing more than a lousy, amateurish (that's right, amateurish, because some fan-produced Trek films are better) re-telling of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Fortunately, "Edge of Tomorrow" doesn't suffer from Trek's lack of imagination.
"The Edge of Tomorrow" finds the entire earth at war against a technically superior alien race. Cruise's character, Major Cage, is a media relations officer, a talking head, and it's his job to rally the human forces against the alien conquest of earth. Unfortunately, he's been assigned to be embedded with combat troops on the front line in a major offense against the enemy, but Cage has absolutely no combat experience, no fighting skills or knowledge. Cage a scaredy-cat has more backbone than Cage. Nevertheless, Cage is arrested, suited-up for combat, and forced to fight the enemy. And dies. He dies again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Oh, and again.
Cage learns quickly he's caught in a time loop, that initially no one believes him (especially military brass Master Sergeant Farell played by Bill Paxton and General Brigham played by Brendan Gleeson), and he's frustrated to discover that every time he dies and comes back to life he's only able to change future events only marginally. Then he meets Special Forces super-warrior Rita, played stoically but attractively by Emily Blunt, but she has reason to believe Cage is telling the truth about his time travel experiences. The film becomes increasing more thought provoking from this point on. The fact that top military brass (i.e., senior management) refused to believe Cage anchors the film and its storyline to "real life" whistle-blower events that clearly occurred during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. Will senior management ever learn to "trust" the "rank and file" in their desparate attempts to simply manage-up as required by military rules (or company policies)? Answer: No.
Not only do we sense Cage's frustration as he's about to die or be killed again and again and again, but director Doug Liman and film editor by James Herbert give the film a sense of frustration by visually conveying a "been there, done that" tone to the film, and quickly propelling the storyline with a knowingly "yada, yada, yada" let's-move-on, which keeps this quickly paced film from lingering. You won't be bored by this film.
Make no mistake, this is a Tom Cruise feature, even though Bill Paxton in his relatively small role as Master Sergeant Farell wonderfully steals every scene he's in (as he did in "Aliens" from 1986, "One False Move" from 1992, and "True Lies" from 1994, etc.). Yes, as expected, eventually there's a hint of a possible relationship between Cage and Emily Blunt's no-nonsense character Rita, but that distraction is ultimately only a footnote. So, the co-stars and supporting cast deliver solid performances, but Cruise carries this film lock, stock, and barrel. Film could have re-shot a few scenes featuring Cruise's left-profile that showed bags under his eyes, and made him appear unnecessarily weary or old. More importantly, Cruise engages his character and engages us to believe in his character. When it became clear to Cage that in order to win the war he must take things into his own hands, Cruise convincingly gave Cage a look of both desperation and decisiveness at the same time. We knew things were going to happen, and did.
Special effects, visual effects, and animation, as expected, are first class. However, the design and presence of the Alphas and other aliens in "Edge of Tomorrow" are too similar to the computer-like creatures humans fought in the Matrix film franchise. Film suffers from not creating aliens that truly appear original. Plus, as with the Matrix film franchise, given that the Alphas and other aliens are mechanically-based, why didn't humans use electromagnetic pulse (EMP) devices to attack the aliens?
Film director Doug Liman provides a strong visual narrative that prevents the viewer from getting lost in the time travel storyline, which is coupled with crisp and snappy editing by James Herbert to brisky pace the film at only 113 minutes. Budgeted at $178,000,000 this film needs to be a box office hit, and it's definitely worthy of such recognition.
Recommendation: See it. Buy the BlueRay/DVD and file it next to your other copies of other hits starring Tom Cruise.