Friday, June 6, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

Adapted from the Japanese graphic novel All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow stars Tom Cruise as military recruiter Major William Cage forced into service on the front lines of a war between humanity and an unstoppable alien race known as Mimics. Despite dying rather early on his first day in the field, Cage finds himself somehow still alive reliving the previous day's events over and over, each time more aware of events and what what must be done to win the war.

With the bad taste of Oblivion still fresh, I wasn't expecting too much from Cruise stepping so quickly back into a sci-fi film. With a structure which will get it compared to Groundhog Day and Source Code, Edge of Tomorrow delivers a smarter-than-expected summer flick which relies heavily on Cruise and co-star Emily Blunt as the kick-ass face of the United Defense Force who alone understands what his character is going through. Although I think the end is a bit too cute for its own good (much like Source Code) director Doug Liman balances action, suspense, and horror with a surprising amount of humor.

In a story in which our main character can't ever truly die, the script by delivers tension with Cage's repeated attempts to change history on that fateful day beginning with an honest account of events (which only makes him appear exactly like the deserter his fellow grunts believe him to be) and his growing relationship with Rita Vrataski (Blunt) who alone has experienced the same phenomena in which Cage finds himself trapped and quickly realizes his ability offers them the best chance to win the war.

As you might expect Cage dies many, many times over the course of the film in which he's transformed by Rita from a coward unwilling to take a battlefield assignment to one of the deadliest killers on the front line. The struggles of his training create one of the most humorous sequences in a montage of Vita killing him over and over, resetting the day in hope that he'll do better the next time around. Cage's attempts to navigate events range from comical to dramatic as Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth choose carefully when, and when not, to clue us in when Cage is re-experiencing an event and when he finds himself on a completely new path.

The Mimics are blurs of motion who appear to be balls of tangled yarn with a brightly-colored center. The movie makes no attempt to understand or present a perspective from the enemies side (a smart choice), nor does it really explain what the soldiers are doing to kill the creatures (are there actually vital organs in that light-colored center?). We also are never offered a reason as to why the aliens where given the name Mimics as the creatures don't actually mimic either human likeness or behavior in any way. Despite having no real weapons other than camouflage, and quick and deadly movement, the creatures are more than a match for the well-armed soldiers they slaughter every day Cage wakes up to a new day.

Writing in Rita's own experience with time travel and how she lost the ability sets the ground for the movie's final act when the script shakes things up by changing the rules completely forcing Cage and Rita to carve out a new path to get the job done as the pair search for the heart of the Mimic's invasion each has had glimpses of in visions during their various resets.

Edge of Tomorrow is far from perfect as you can nitpick the Mimics, the science of the film, the actions of General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) who throws Cage into battle against his will, and Cage's free access to the base after being branded a deserter and thrown in with the worst-prepared (and comically cliched) squad of soldiers, but it's an engaging, well-paced, entertaining hero tale about time travel and the end of the world that proves Cruise can still carry an action-heavy movie and Blunt will add grace to any film in which she's cast.

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