The bustling summer cinematic season is usually filled with sequels, prequels, reboots and popular adaptations. Original blockbuster fare is few and far between, never getting the recognition it deserves. It’s even less likely that the film is loved by critics as well as the audience, but no one has to look any farther than Edge Of Tomorrow. Seemingly coming out of nowhere to a landscape filled with characters we’ve gotten to know and sequels to past blockbusters, it carved its own mark on the indelible summer landscape. Anchored by a great turn for some guy called Tom Cruise, it shows that this is not your average sci-fi action flick and awaits your perceptions to be blown away.
Being the biggest and most noticeable actor in the planet, Tom Cruise has melded his own cinematic persona that, while he does very well, can get to be a little tiresome. He never strays that far away from being the brave and gallant hero. So I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that he isn’t the guy in the front lines battling aliens called mimics that have taken over Europe. Here he is Major William Cage, a public representative for the military that has never seen combat and was only in the ROTC in college. His reluctance to initially decline going in the first wave against a deadly enemy was refreshing and promised growth with his character. It’s as different as any leading role he has ever done since his villainous role as the brilliantly cool as ice assassin Vincent in Collateral. Tom Cruise doesn’t get that much credit for how willing he is able to stretch the characters he’s willing to play and do them effectively. This is one of his best roles since John Anderton in Minority Report which is a sci-fi classic. Cage is a coward, terrified and would do anything to not see combat for a huge portion of the movie. But no amount of smooth-talking will get him out of it as an unexpected moment causes him to relive the same day of deployment where the end result is the same, with his death. He eventually adapts to his situation and environment but seeing him go through it was great as he morphs into a battle hardened badass soldier while his ever present charisma and humor seeps through the cracks. It is the total opposite from his most famous role, superhero agent Ethan Hunt from the highly successful Mission Impossible series. You really start to feel for him and the horrors he has to endure; the look of fear on his face is incredibly believable as his untimely fate awaits him. I really enjoyed seeing his confidence build as he tells complete strangers everything about them.
His role was perfectly cast aside Emily Blunt as Rita Vrataski, all around asskicker and “full metal bitch” who is a hero to the human race. Compiling a record number of kills against mimics in a game changing battle at Verdun, she is the poster girl for the war resistance and the only one who can help Cage get out of this terrible predicament. She was simply awesome in this role and I can’t say how refreshing it is to see a female character get to kick some ass. She is relentlessly confident and deadly while never inertly focusing on her sex appeal, which he has in bundles. Perceived as an equal to men while still incredibly intimidating, Cage more than likely has never seen a woman like that before. She doesn’t play the damsel in distress that plagues so many women in these roles. She plays the hero just like the men, willing to take the bullet when needed or jump on the live grenade. The chemistry shown between them was undeniable as they went off great of each other. It was a seamless connection where none of the characters had to sacrifice what they are to achieve a great story. in the past she has played differing roles where they are strong, confident and entirely capable of kicking some serious ass like her star turning role as the assistant Emily in The Devil Wears Prada and Sara in Looper. Bill Paxton was also fun as Master Sergeant Farell, who takes Cage into battle while also chewing some scenery with his southern drawl. The recruits who bunk with Cage had some fun moments too, adding to the scenery very well.
Doug Liman is an incredibly underrated director as he shows great control for the story while stretching what is needed to make it enjoyable. He has always had a great eye for action, character and humor with works like Go, The Bourne Identity and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Even Jumper had some unique action sequences and wasn’t a total loss. Liman knows how to direct a memorable sequence like the repeater montage where Cage lives the same day and slowly adapts while also getting more and number to the situation. Not since District 9 and more recently Looper has there been a more refreshing, thought provoking, action packed sci-fi movie, rivaling District 9s amazing action sequences as well as awesome characters. Liman knows how to bring out the spectacle of popcorn action while infusing it with a smart narrative between the ropes. He is a very original director with an ever-changing style whose frantic, kinetic energy hardly lets up as it surprises and thrills, leaving you wanting more.
The script benefits from its crackling rapport between Cage and Rita, allowing plenty of time for growth for both of them even though only one remembers. There isn’t a forced sexual relationship, a moment where it’s true love or where they have to share their first kiss. It just allows them to fight some aliens while not reliving the same day again. It’s surprisingly funny where you would not think since it was not shown to be at all in the trailers. That helped to break up the crazy action as the dark humor brought it down to an even level. The mood changed very smoothly as well as quickly and hardly fell out of place. That mostly has to do with the brilliant editing, since a movie where a man relives the same day over and over needs someone who can effectively piece together days, weeks, months together as one seamless experience. It’s something you have to see again just to see those frantic cuts. The story, an adaptation from a Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, goes into unexpected territories while at the same time followed a formula that you would expect. But it was told in a way that it didn’t take anything away from the movie at all, never boring or failing to excite. It helped that it wasn’t overtly stupid since mind bending time travel can be abused too much in movies or too confusing that no one will remember to care. The story was treated with care and intelligence which is surprising since a total of five writers worked on the script at different points in time leading up to the start of filming. But for all the intelligence, bustling action and great acting, my favorite part was the ending and the simplicity it brought. Open ended but very much closed. You wish you could see the aftermath but it would ruin the tone of the movie to see it. It goes so well with everything that preceded it and ends abruptly like it did so many times for Major William Cage on the beaches of France.
Original science fiction films are usually the most disrespected genre but they also have the biggest probability to surprise. Too often are they overlooked until years go by and people critique what a great piece of work it was, predicting the future as it is now. It’s also the most creative where the brightest minds lend their craft too. While an adaptation, I like that a work from japan that otherwise would not have gotten noticed is now getting mainstream attention. I think it’s great that they’re gaining more mainstream attention and Edge Of Tomorrow should not be a film that is so quickly forgotten. The cinematic landscape needs some semblance of creativity that only science fiction can bring.
I loved the videogame feel to the entire movie, the boiling frustration and anger making you come back for more. You get to the final level which is also the hardest where you die every time to start at the beginning with no save points. It really helped with the aesthetic that anything can happen and the unpredictability of life that consumes us all. The armed mechanized exoskeletons called Jackets also helped with the feel. It looked exactly like something you would see out of a videogame which instantly made it cool. It’s hard for a mech suit to not look awesome in the first place but seeing machineguns and rocket launchers pop up behind Cage’s back was like a fanboy’s dream. I also liked the look of the mimics. It reminded me of the autonomous killing machines nicknamed Squiddy’s from The Matrix trilogy. They were almost liquid like with tentacles making up their own shape as they glide through the ground area, much like jelly fish. The excursion on mimic forces on the beaches of France has direct comparisons to the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. It being an important battle that would determine the war as well as being the biggest invasion of troops in history is also noticeable. You could tell that styles were taken from Saving Private Ryan and the classic D-Day invasion scene that opened the film. That direct correlation helped bring resonance to past events and how history is even repeating itself. I sure hope I am not the only one to notice that, since that part of history is important and should be common knowledge. But I always found history interesting anyway. One minor thing that I noticed that wasn’t explored but didn’t really need to be was commanding officers wanting the war to be covered positively by the media so more troops would enlist, then finding a scapegoat for the public when high death tolls need to be answered for. It was a small detail but it spoke volumes on how the media can be exploited and how war can be molded into a harmful tool for various roles in politics.
It can be hard to be surprised come the cinematic season since we see so much of the same old stuff over and over. Why people complain about it then do nothing when an original, creative film comes out is beyond me. They far too often come in like a sheep and go out like a lamb, remembered whenever they go on DVD. But Edge Of Tomorrow doesn’t deserve that same fate as it’s so much fun and inventive that it practically begs to be seen. One should be able to put their dislike for its star tucked away as it should have no bearing on how they act. If one lets go their inhibitions towards the genre, they allow themselves to be immersed in a world where unpredictability is the norm and genuine surprise is a requirement. It is not only wanted, it is needed. Four and a half time loops out of five.