Review: Edge of Tomorrow

I haven’t read Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill, so I cannot possibly make a judgement as to whether Doug Liman’s new film Edge of Tomorrow works as an adaptation. I must restrict myself to a purely cinematic analysis, and my goodness this film surprised me. I won’t do a complete plot summary (go here for that) but I do trespass into spoiler territory, so this is the alert.

I suspect that I was not the only one who felt a prickle of trepidation when the trailer for the Edge of Tomorrow preceded every other 3D film this year. Tom Cruise in yet another save the world CG-fest, embarrassing us all with his ‘take me seriously I’m being intense’ style. But my expectation that I was in for another War of the Worlds clunker showed more perhaps about my limited view of the capabilities of a serial Hollywood A-lister. 

Before getting into the positives I’ll give this brief throat clearing. The story is wantonly simple, in fact the entire context of the war with an alien race is shamelessly lifted straight from WWII (the Aliens being the Nazi’s of course) although without a holocaust. The big battle that dominates the story (partly because it is the centrepiece of the day that keeps being repeated) is essentially a futuristic version of D-day. It is shameless, but it is so because it has to be grasped quickly by the audience and held in mind through all of the confusing day repetitions. There is also an abundance of clichés, from the expected ‘What took you so long?’ line that seems to be attached to Hollywood with as much usefulness as tits on a bull, to all the ones you would expect in an army barracks. But again this negative is a paltry one, because it connects well with the very idea of living the same day over and over – your existence becomes cliché.  

Tom Cruise’s gives a solid performance as Private (formerly Major) William Cage. He performs well physically, and only a few times drifts into his frustrating ‘I’m being intense’ moods. But the crucial importance of his character and why he does so well is that William Cage is a snobby little coward. At the start of the film he is dislikeable and unsympathetic as he tries to weasel his way out of fighting beside his fellow soldiers. When he is dragooned onto the beaches of Normandy he is authentically terrified, absent is the Tom Cruise heroism, he scurries from cover to cover trying desperately to take the safety off his weapons and pleading with his comrades to tell him how. He dies when a rare command alien attacks him and he sets off the claymore mine in a bid to kill it. The blood of the ‘alpha’ spills over his dying and burning up head transferring the alien power to control time to him. Thus he wakes up at the start of the previous day. 

The repeated cycle over and hover many thousands of times justifies his very Tom Cruise heroics later. He trains longer than anyone ever could, and through dying so many times in combat knows exactly what is going to happen before it does. This provides the best comedic elements as we see Tom die in many different ways and then quite methodically start again to get it right before dying again a few steps later. The film is well balanced in terms of pace to make sure this doesn’t get boring – and it never does.

Emily Blunt plays the famous Sergeant Rita Vrataski, a ruthless fighter who once had the same power as William Cage, but lost it when she was injured and instead of dying was taken to a hospital and pumped with donated blood. She is the only one who believes Cage (and I assume must be met and persuaded every time he ‘respawns’) and trains him to fight as they hatch a plan to destroy the omega – the other half of the alien intelligence along with the alpha. If they destroy the omega they will literally save the world. A dead simple plot it is true but if it were complicated the movie would suffer, and honestly who the hell comes to a 3D film with high expectations on narrative?

Blunt is great at looking good while looking grim at the same time, and (I won’t spoil it) although there is a predictable romantic tension it is mercifully unmilked. If I had $14 spare I might go to it a second time, I really do think it is that worth it. Given my sleepiness I will cut this short, there is really not much else to say except that I give Edge of Tomorrow a solid three and a half stars (out of five), and that I wish Tom Cruise would do this kind of thing more often.

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