Monday, December 8, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

Directed by Doug Liman.
2014. Rated PG-13, 113 minutes.
Cast:
Tom Cruise
Emily Blunt
Bill Paxton
Brendan Gleeson
Kick Gurry
Dragomir Mrsic
Charlotte Riley
Jonas Armstrong

If you saw Groundhog Day, and possibly if you haven't, you know that the protagonist is doomed to relive the same day over and over again while everyone else is oblivious to what's going on. Imagine this happening to someone in the midst of war. Also imagine victory in that war, and the fate of humanity, hinging on whether this person could figure out how to defeat the enemy on that day. Such is the lot drawn by William Cage (Cruise). He's an officer that gets demoted all the way to the rank of private when he tries to flee after being told he's going to combat in the war against an alien invader. Not only does he find himself stripped of rank, but in a unit that is shipping out the very next day regardless of whether he's trained or not. Shortly after dropping into battle, he finds himself getting killed. Don't fret because he also wakes up at the start of the previous day. And yeah, pretty much the same thing happens again and again with him sometimes advancing a few steps further, sometimes a few less, than the previous try. Eventually, he manages to reach Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Blunt), also known as the "Full Metal Bitch" for an act of heroism she performed during combat. She explains it all to him because she used to have the same ability/problem before somehow losing it. So here's the deal: every time our hero dies, the day starts over and he's the only one who knows this. The question is can the two of them figure out how to defeat the aliens?

One thing that Edge of Tomorrow does to great effect is play up the humorous aspects of the situation. Even though the situation itself is dire, the movie is actually hilarious. When our day starts over, as it inevitably does, we're presented with a very nice variation in the way things happen. These sequences are all nicely abbreviated focusing on one aspect or the other. However, it's not all fun and games. Even through our laughter, we can sense a growing frustration and desperation in our main character. Through our hero's repeated and comically presented deaths is an odd way to approach character development, but it works perfectly. Within the first thirty minutes, we get to know this guy fairly well despite not having spent a ton of time with him. As the time we do spend with Cage grows, so does our sympathy for him. His plight is well presented. We buy into him.


Helping us to buy into him is none other than Tom Cruise. Ironically, it's all the qualities that seem to be the antithesis of Cruise's persona that draw us in. Cage is certainly not the smug, supremely confident hero that the actor has made a living playing. He's much more unsure of himself which gives him a humbleness Cruise rarely displays. He doesn't have all the answers. For a long time, he doesn't appear to have any of the answers. This plants the seed of doubt needed for the movie to maintain enough tension to keep us in the film. Cage also seriously considers giving up on even attempting to save the world. This is a very human, very endearing quality. We sense the weight that has been thrust upon his shoulders. We can almost see it as it mounts. We can definitely see him crumble beneath its heft several times. Combined with the humorous approach to things, especially early, it all becomes a nice send-up of the character he normally plays.

Opposite Cruise, Emily Blunt turns in fantastic work as the far more seasoned soldier of the two. As someone who has been on the front lines of this war for quite some time, all of the movie's sense of urgency is channeled through her. She gives purpose to both Cruise and the film itself. Blunt, her physique suitably bulked up and toned down, is also the emotional center of the movie. However, she manages to be this without falling into the conventional methods of crying and behaving hysterically as many female characters tend to do. Though there is eventually a hint of romance, this isn't the focus of, nor reason for, her existence. The writers, as well as director Doug Liman, deserve tons of credit for bringing such a woman to the screen. Emily Blunt is to be lauded for breathing life into her.

Story-wise, the humor keeps us bouncing along. It also helps keep us intrigued. Our plot also gets some help by being exciting in the action department. The aliens they are fighting are nicely rendered and appropriately vicious. However, I'd be lying if I said they didn't remind me of the giant bugs from Starship Troopers. While highly enjoyable, the movie does hit a few snags along the way. First, there are the plot holes wrapped around our hero's powers. Then, the repetitive nature of the movie occasionally takes its toll and makes Edge of Tomorrow feel like it goes on just a tad too long. The biggest issue might be the forced happiness that sort of undermines everything that went on before it. Given how things play out, it feels like just a bit of a cheat. None of these things are deal breakers. In fact, they might not even be noticeable because you're having such a good time with it.

14 comments:

  1. My only complaint with this film was the last five minutes. Everything else was near enough perfect, no complaints whatsoever. The end felt like a cop out, and it didn't fit with the internal logic of the movie. Nevertheless, very enjoyable film - can't really complain too much :)

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    1. That last five minutes is the "forced happiness" I was talking about. The rest really is excellent.

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  2. I can't believe I still haven't seen this. I'm going to get round to it very soon! I didn't realise it was actually quite humourous though, that might have been the push I needed :)
    - Allie

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    1. Who knew it was funny to watch Tom Cruise die repeatedly?

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  3. I really enjoyed this one, more than I thought I would. Somehow Cruise was VERY watchable here and I love Emily Blunt so she's always awesome. I don't mind watching this one again!

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    1. I think he is so watchable because he's not giving us the same old Tom Cruise. He actually has to do something a little different than normal.

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  4. Oh I, loved the movie. I agree it was funny in many moments, most notably Cruise's dying screams were hysterical

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    1. Absolutely! Such a shame this didn't do better at the box office.

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  5. This was a fun movie, and as you pointed out, Cruise was less insufferable than usual. :) Excellent review!

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  7. I agree! This was the first Tom Cruise movie I've enjoyed since he appeared in the PT Anderson movie way back in the 1990's!

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    1. Wow! Talk about a drout. I'm not the biggest Cruise fan, but occasionally he hits with me.

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