Friday, 17 October 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

Lowdown: A guy recruited to fight humanity’s war against an invading alien race repeatedly wakes up to relive the same day of fighting each time he’s killed in action.
Edge of Tomorrow is a film on the edge. Silly pun, I know, but bear with me.
Its starting point is on the compromised side of things. The movie is based on a Japanese science fiction tale, with the book's related comic called All You Need Is Kill leaving me rather unimpressed. Then there is the Tom Cruise factor: I could accept Mr Cruise as that flawless but ultimately silly hero in Top Gun, but come on – surely we’ve matured in the three decades since? I’m way past the point of being attracted to Cruise’s star power; I’m rather repelled.
But then I actually sat to watch Edge of Tomorrow. I will be blunt (another pun!): I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and consider it the best new film I’ve seen in a while. The question is, what makes this movie so good?
First, let us discuss the movie’s backstory. In a very WW2 style presentation, albeit in color, we are informed that aliens have invaded the earth and have taken a stronghold in Europe. WW2 motifs continue with the whole of humanity taking part in the war against these aliens: the Chinese advancing in the east the same way the Russians did back then, and the West about to have its D-Day moment. A moment when it will launch an all-or-nothing attack, landing its forces on the European mainland in order to eliminate the alien threat once and for all. Shards of Paul Verhoeven’s brilliant Starship Troopers are there to be seen.
Into the frame comes Cage (Cruise), an American propaganda officer whose role is to lure volunteers into the human meat grinding army. Only that the British General in charge of the invasion would prefer Cage to be embedded with the landing force; Cage is smart enough to refuse the “offer”, which lands him instead in the position of a subordinate Private placed in a platoon of fighting misfits.
Cage lands on the shores of Europe with humanity’s million wise invading force, only to be a witness to the human army getting massacred. He quickly dies, too, only to wake up on that very same morning yet again in order to live (and die) through the landing again. And again. And again, and again. It’s Groundhog Day on steroids. But Cage has an advantage: he can learn from day to day, allowing him to slowly extend the time he survives on that European beach till the aliens get to him again. Through repetitions he extends his time enough to meet the human super soldier, sword yielding Rita (Emily Blunt); perhaps together our reluctant soldier and super soldier can actually win the war?
OK: I’ve mentioned Edge of Tomorrow is a film on the edge, and now it’s time for me to explain myself. The edge I meant is to do with the way this movie does its best to stay on that optimal peak between the potentially conflicting needs to provide action/suspense, comedy and plot progression. All three are strongly mixed here, and all three can be either difficult to achieve or overdone. I will start with plot progression: if you think about it, you will realise it could be quite hard to drive forward a movie that has to repeat the event of a single day again and again without stumbling. By the same token, for a movie promising so much potential in the action department, it would have been all too easy to turn Edge of Tomorrow into another special effects orgy that Hollywood likes to push our way. And last, there is plenty of potential for comedy here around the way Cage has to deal with repeatedly living the same day.
I would therefore “blame” me liking Edge of Tomorrow as much as I did on it actually managing through this highly elusive holy grail of optimisation in the field of filmmaking in flying colors. Edge of Tomorrow is an excellent mix of action, comedy and plot. Sure, the movie has a lot going for it, from script to a Tom Cruise that actually does a fine job in the role of his compromised character rising to the occasion. But I feel it is in the editing department that Edge of Tomorrow wins the day.
I will not shy from giving Emily Blunt credit, too. This actress seems to have a knack for high quality science fiction flicks, as per The Adjustment Bureau and, to a lesser extent, Looper. She seems to own the role of supporting female actress in this genre; given her excellent fit into the main role in Wild Target, I would hope the next time we see her would be in the pilot seat of a high quality science fiction movie. I’m sure she would do an excellent Commander Shepard!
My sole disappointment with Edge of Tomorrow is to do with its ending. It’s not too bad, but if you read the book’s you will see the original is better. Once again we have Hollywood sticking a stick in its own wheel for the sake of supplying us with yet another hero & heroine kissing into the sunset type ending. Surely we have matured enough to not require that out of every film?
Overall: Edge of Tomorrow brings further weight to the claim science fiction can do a hell of a job in providing interesting yet entertaining movies. 4.5 out of 5 crabs from me.

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