Edge Of Tomorrow Review
Posted by Terry Lewis on 06.06.2014
Tom Cruise is brought back to life over and over to battle aliens in Edge of Tomorrow! But is it worth checking out or should it be left in the sci-fi scrap heap? 411's Terry Lewis and Jeffrey Harris check in with their full reviews!
Tom Cruise - Major William Cage Emily Blunt - Rita Vrataski Bill Paxton - Sergeant Farrell Brendan Gleeson - General Brigham
In another vintage summer blockbuster year filled with multiple comic book adaptations, spare a thought for Japan's equivalent in manga. Uncommonly used as a source of material, the creative success behind The Bourne Identity in director Doug Liman looks to change that in adapting All You Need Is Kill for the big screen, in an "Aliens Meets Groundhog Day" twist but with the added nuclear weapon of Mr. "One blockbuster a year" himself Tom Cruise being the detonator in Edge Of Tomorrow.
It's half past the near future and there's an alien race dubbed "Mimics" making their way across Europe like a bunch of world invading, culture hoovering backpackers. Former advertising sleazebag turned Army spin doctor, Major William Cage (Cruise, Oblivion), is ordered to go to the frontline despite no formal combat training. The latest attack and last push against the Mimics on a French beach is a disaster all round, with war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, Looper) buying it and Cage meeting a sticky end too... only to wake up the day before and reliving the same events again. He finds out he has the ability to reset time by dying by a day or so and works with Vrataski to stop the Mimic invasion once and for all, as with every death he finds out new information and gains more combat experience to win the war.
It's the first film in a long old time I can say I have flat out liked Tom Cruise in a role. I mean he's fine and serviceable to whatever role he's put in, but here in Edge Of Tomorrow, it's the singular picture I can think of where Tom gives something back. And by that, I mean dies awesomely over and over again all in the name of entertainment. Yes, even the most hardened Cruise hater won't find it hard to crack a smile at the numerous times Tom comes back from the dead more times than a season of Doctor Who. Whilst nearly all of the deaths aren't even gory enough to blink at (most of them are head shots off camera), as we are dealing with a PG-13/12-A rating, the one which kicks off Cage's troubles where an Alpha Mimic's head explodes over him showing him in melting alien goo is equally haunting and pleasing. It's almost as if he's signed up for a fan service injected piece of self realisation and he's happy to play along.
I feel Cruise is made instantly likable but having some *GASP!* CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT in one of his characters for once. The journey Cage goes on from becoming an instantly dislikeable or relatable douche (depending on your view of trying to get out of military service) to full metal badass at the end is one that kept me engaged all the way through. There's the little moments where a few times he just thinks "what's the point?" of trying to keep the cycle again going again and escapes to London for an end of humanity drink, before the process starts all over again. Whilst you may feel Groundhog Day did this before with Bill Murray, Cruise gets to show off a wide range of emotions compared to his last few roles and Cage as a result is quite a sympathetic character. It's not the second coming of Xenu in Cruise's career like some people are saying, yet it IS a great reminder that Tom Cruise is a good actor and I'd welcome seeing him in another role sooner than later.
Away from Cruise, the compact cast is worthwhile. Blunt goes for a decent 21st century Ripley clone as a badass Mimic slayer, who actually had the same time powers as Cage until she lost them. It explains how humanity has fought back and isn't as Little Miss Plot Convenience as you may think. In fact, she's probably the best female action hero in a awhile. There are some fun background characters, mainly in the form of the castoff J Squad, but the film is all about two fantastic supporting spots. First up, famed Irish acting powerhouse Brendan Gleeson of Calvary appears in a couple of scenes as a non-giving General of the United World Army and he's so reliable. But more entertaining and a really nice surprise is that Edge Of Tomorrow is definitely Paxinated with the very welcome appearance of one Bill Paxton (Big Love). I won't lie - I love Bill Paxton and his fabulous extended cameo as a straight up drill sergeant is possibly the film's hidden highlight for all who see it.
The concept of time loop movies haven't been done to death quite yet on a major scale so Edge Of Tomorrow feels rather fresh playing about within it's Groundhog Day playpen. We see Cage go through multiple options and twists to find out the final plan and you take it as it comes but you don't realise straight away that this is a man whose quite possibly lived through the same day and seen the same people over and over, learning everything he can from people over multiple days to stun them with regurgitating their life stories to them when they see them for the first time the next day. The lightening rod of Vrataski and her obscure mad scientist friend keep the film's base level so we have a point where the rest of the days and plots can jump off from. Being honest, it's fairly well crafted for a time looping film and half the decent humour beats comes from a yet again frustrated Cage cutting off people he's meeting for the first time again with the plot up until now while they look dumbfounded. As such, the film keeps your interest up all the way as anything is quite literally possible. Perhaps my favourite moment is Cruise getting spectacularly wrong the timing to escape from Paxton and getting squished by an army truck with an "aww god dammit!". In fact, it's only when the time loop gimmick tap is turned off near the end I felt the film scalded me. You've become so used to Cage's deaths not meaning anything but a hard reset that the real danger and the whiff of a Hollywood enforced "happy" ending doesn't mean as much as it should.
All things considered, whilst the shameless rip on Aliens is obvious with a bunch of ragtag "muh-rines" outcasts in multiple sequences, it doesn't spoil your enjoyment and to be honest, it's the first time I've seen it in awhile so I'm happy to embrace it. The Mimics are quite cool looking creature designs, with a multiple tentacle limbed lion features, and their idea to conquer by resetting time until they find a way to win is genius. The manga-esque super suit "jackets" the humans wear to take on the Mimics are basic but homaging in a good way the yellow loader with more firepower to blast those damn aliens away. Although there is a definite smell of familiarity born from the breeding of the shoot 'em up aspects of the xenomorph franchise and the science fiction time looping film, there's enough playing about in the aspects of both genres for you to quickly forget and move on to the big turning points in the plot and action.
The numerous action sequences are welcome with multiple memorable set pieces. Although there is some dull but understandable repetition with the opening French beach invasion, away from that there's numerous destruction derbies in mobile home parks, shoot outs in flooded Paris and German dams to make this stand out from recent disappointments like Sabotage. The SUV and caravan shoot out adds some black humour in the sense of "holy shit did we seriously just do that?!" yet Cage is numb to it and Vrataski just rolls with it in a fine nod of the head to audiences. I must applaud Liman for taking on an ambitious directing project and crafting one of the nicest looking action films in quite some time. Even the underwater sequences look pretty damn good and they're usually a right mother to get right in the age of CGI. On top of managing to breath life into two flogged to death horses by hooking them up to one another, I hope he gets more work on an even bigger blockbuster project soon.
The 411: Whilst it is very much a rip on Aliens and of course Groundhog Day, the sum of it's parts together makes Edge Of Tomorrow one damn kickass sci-fi action summer blockbuster flick. Cruise is front and centre as usual but I'd be lying if it wasn't fantastic seeing him go through the wringer repeatedly and show off some decent acting in Cage's character development. Thanks to some awesome playing about with time repeating itself and Liman making a mighty fine looking film, this should be an entertaining stand out in a busy 2014 summer season. Can not recommend enough.