Edge of Tomorrow

Posted: June 7, 2014 in Film reviews
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Directed by Doug Liman. Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.

It is the near future, and Earth has been invaded by alien creatures nicknamed ‘Mimics’ due to their ability to adapt to any tactics used against them. Most of Western Europe is in Mimic hands but a fight back is planned, a huge invasion of France is to be undertaken by the United Defence Force, a multinational army. Major William Cage (Cruise) is a cowardly PR specialist whose broadcasts have helped sign up thousands to the UDF, although he’s stayed as far away from the actual fighting as he can.

Before the invasion however, General Brigham (Brendon Gleeson) orders Cage to take a camera crew and join with the invading forces. Cage protests but Brigham insists. In a last desperate act, Cage tries blackmailing the General. Brigham responds by having Cage tasered.

When he wakes Cage discovers he’s been busted to private and assigned to a rag tag unit named J-Squad, led by the surly Sergeant Farrell. He has no training, and isn’t even shown how to properly use the armoured exo-suit (nicknamed jackets) that all soldiers wear. He isn’t expected to last very long, and in the assault on the beach he is indeed killed, as is everyone else, because it was a trap. Before he dies however he takes out a Mimic slightly different from the others.

Cage wakes up 24 hours earlier to discover that the day has been reset. He tries to warn Farrell but he’s ignored and the attack goes ahead as planned. Once again the Mimics are waiting and once again Cage and the others are killed. After a few more loops however, Cage discovers an ally in the shape of battlefield legend Rita Vrataski (Blunt) known as the Angel of Verdun (and also known as the Full Metal Bitch.) Rita is one of only two people who will believe Cage, because she’s been through the same thing, and now, with Cage’s help, she thinks they can use his talent to win the war…

Based on a Japanese novel (All I Need is Kill) Edge of Tomorrow hits our screens as something of a refreshing change. Not a reboot or a remake, not part of a franchise, it instead stands somewhat alone. Which isn’t to say it’s original (time loops can be found in myriad episodes of Star Trek, and famously Bill Murray lived the same day over and over again in Groundhog Day) but its original enough to give it added cachet.

It’s Japanese origins are obvious, the battle suits and tentacled aliens have a very Manga feel to them, although the action has been transferred to Europe, designed to parallel D-Day, and if the assault on the beach by a multinational force wasn’t obvious enough, the fact that it came out in the UK the week before D-Day’s 70th anniversary, and is actually released in the US on June 6th, should leave no doubt about the correlation the filmmakers are going for.

Cruse is excellent, not for the first time subverting his all American hero persona to give us Cage, a smug coward who’ll do anything to get out of fighting but who finds he can be more of a man, more of a warrior than he ever might have imagined.

In Emily Blunt he is given a co-star not only his equal but, certainly early in the film, his superior in every way. Lord knows how much training she did before filming but she really does look like she could tear a Mimic apart with her bare hands, and despite the burgeoning romance between the two her character’s integrity is never compromised. It’s rare to find such a strong female character in a blockbuster, but this year has seen three so far in Blunt, Emma Stone and Scarlett Johansson. Are they eye candy as well, yes clearly, but it isn’t like Cruise, Evans and Garfield aren’t as well. It just goes to show, hire a woman who can act and give her a role to get her teeth into and that’s preferable to any number of Megan Fox –a-likes.

The direction is rarely exemplary, but Liman keeps the pace high and does a good job of retelling the same scenes without making it boring (although the film does come close to the line at times). The effects are good, and the battle scenes suitably visceral, and if they’re more Starship Troopers than Saving Private Ryan this isn’t a bad thing. The supporting cast do good things with fairly thin roles, and in particular Bill Paxton almost steals the show as Sgt Farrell, effectively showing us what might have happened to Hudson from Aliens if he hadn’t been killed!

Yes the final act is a little bland and, yes, the pat ending is kind of annoying, and the aliens themselves somewhat undercooked to say the least, and perhaps there was a story to be told around how psychologically damaging being killed over and over again might be, but this hardly seems to matter when the film is such fun.

It’s exciting, and very funny, and seeing Cruise get killed in innumerable different ways is more amusing than you might think. In other hands the Fight-Die-Learn- repeat trope might have led to an uninteresting computer game of a film, but Liman never gives you much time to consider the plot holes, and Cruise and Blunt give it their all, meaning the film is a tribute to the fun of computer games rather than a listless imitation.

It’ll take repeat viewings to see whether it holds up as a classic, but if I woke up yesterday and had to see it all over again I certainly wouldn’t be unhappy at the prospect.

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