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Movie Review: 'Edge of Tomorrow'

Edge of Tomorrow

Rating:
Star4
Star
Star
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Star

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Dir: Doug Liman. PG-13, for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material

Tom Cruise battles aliens in 'Edge of Tomorrow'
Tom Cruise battles aliens in 'Edge of Tomorrow'
Warner Bros.

This film is playing in theaters everywhere.

Based on a Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, in Edge of Tomorrow, humanity has been at war with an alien species called the Mimics for five years. United Defense Forces (UDF), created by NATO militaries, uses specialized mechanized exoskeletons as armor for the soldiers. The main story follows a military officer named William Cage (Tom Cruise) who wakes up at a military base, is stripped of his rank, is then immediately thrown into the battlefield, meets famous female war hero Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), and then, after a bout with a strange Mimic, he dies in battle. He then wakes up at the same military base he woke up at previously, and winds up reliving the same day over and over again, in an infinite time loop. He soon discovers that Rita and Mimics may have a clue on why this strange occurrence is happening to him.

The concept of this film, as film buffs will notice, is similar to Groundhog Day (starring Bill Murray), a comedy classic that explores searching for personal meaning in a life that has no consequences. That was certainly a deeper film, despite being a comedy, and the type of film I could probably write long, detailed essays on. When it comes to sci-fi, however, Source Code (starring Jake Gyllenhaal) is a closer cousin to this film—in that film, a character is sent to a moment in the (“parallel?”) past to learn a secret to prevent a future—also a good film. Edge of Tomorrow, like Source Code, is a thriller, although Edge does have more fun with the idea.

And, that helps a lot. This is a fun film to watch and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s amusing to see Cruise’s character get killed off so easily every time, akin to a newbie video game player. Little clever moments and subtle details in the film become bigger details later on, which make the film’s universe feel broader. It reminded me of when I used to play text adventure games as a kid—those text-based Infocom games where I always got killed and I had to try out a different scenario the next time—it gave the illusion of limitless option and discovery. Simply put, a film’s world or a video game’s world looks bigger and more complex when you can see them in context of alternate options and possibilities.

This film reminded of sci-fi flicks from the 80’s—the technology does not look like Apple. I loved the Dieselpunk style of the film. It had a run-down, World War II look—bulky, heavy, clunky, and dirty--but they still looked fairly real and functional. The action scenes are fun, intense, and well-directed by Bourne Identity’s Doug Liman (Swingers). The battle scenes appear to be influenced by the Battle of Normandy during WWII. It’s refreshing to see a large scale sci-fi war scene that does not involve spaceships . The characters had a rough, tough look you would expect in a traditional war film—just upgraded a tad. The planes still look like planes. The guns still look like guns.

Tom Cruise is particularly likeable as Cage, an everyman-type with a bit of self-effacing humor—much less serious than the characters he normally plays. Emily Blunt is charming as Rita Vrataski—she looks and acts the part of the tough chick and all her scenes have an impressive amount of physicality. The drama between Cage and Vrataski is convincingly poignant, as Cruise’s character soon realizes that being stuck in a time loop also means having to see her get killed over and over again. The supporting characters, who bring much of the humor, play their roles quite well.

As a sci-fi film, it’s quite refreshing to see something so different. It’s certainly not the standard plot for films of this ilk. One could say a plot device like this would normally not fit in a genre like this, but it’s done in a way where I found myself engaged. It’s a fun ride. I liked the characters. I liked the little discoveries the characters made. I enjoyed the character progression of Cruise’s character. Like Groundhog Day, I did feel like I learned a little something. I think it had something to do with not selling yourself short, that you might be destined for greatness all along…or at least that’s how I saw it.