Friday, 30 May 2014

Bonus Review: Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)

Live. Die. Repeat. That's the tagline for Edge Of Tomorrow, a film most easily described as Groundhog Day meets Saving Private Ryan, with the sentinels from The Matrix movies added to the mix. Tom Cruise is the leading man, sharing the screen with Emily Blunt, for the most part, and director Doug Liman is the man doing his best to ensure that viewers get plenty of bang for their buck.

Cruise plays Cage, the hero of the movie, but you wouldn't know that from the first scenes featuring his character. Because Cage is not a soldier. He's a Major, yes, but one who has always managed to avoid being involved in any major battle with an invading alien force that has been waging war against humans for the past five years. When Cage defies a request to lead troops into a final battle that his military superiors predict will lead to victory he is arrested, demoted, and thrown in with a squad of soldiers who are all making final preparations a day ahead of going into the battle. When tomorrow comes along, Cage can't even work his battle-suit properly. He has no idea how to turn off the safety. He dies pretty quickly. And then wakes up again, handcuffed and about to be bawled out by Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton). This happens again. And again. And again. It turns out that Cage has absorbed some power from the enemy, an ability to reset the day when he dies, but it's only a woman named Rita (Emily Blunt), a war hero who has, at one point, gone through exactly what Cage is experiencing. Can they use the power to change fate and win the war?

Based on source material by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (which goes by the better title "All You Need Is Kill" - the original title for the movie), Edge Of Tomorrow delivers everything that you expect from it. If you've seen the trailer then you won't be sold short. Many reviewers have already commented on the fact that this is the ultimate videogame movie and that's a good point. Cage has to learn with each journey, and whenever he's killed he ends up "respawning" back at the start, although viewers are saved the full journey on each occasion, joining the characters instead at every main junction to see how bad decisions are overturned, and how the main character develops his muscle memory on each attempt. The script, by Christopher McQuarrie, Jex Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, is sharp and witty throughout. You do get one or two scenes of exposition, of course, but they're perfectly done, brief and informative, before everyone gets back to battleground manoeuvres.

There will always be people who hate Tom Cruise, no matter what he does. Well, screw 'em is what I say. I've been a fan of the man for years, and he almost always delivers the goods when it comes to blockbuster fare of this type. This is another good performance. It's fun to see his character develop throughout the movie, especially in the first third, which makes it clear that he's not a soldier. He is, in fact, a bit of a useless coward. Cruise puts on his big grin, and isn't afraid (as he never has been) to twist it in a way that shows just how his character has managed to get to where he is without seeing combat. That grin brings a whole backstory that the writers don't need to make explicit. But when the grin disappears and the constant battling starts to reshape Cage into something he never thought he would be - a soldier - it becomes easy to root for him, and easy to believe in his transformation. Because Cruise makes it easy.

Nobody seems to hate Emily Blunt, and her performance here isn't likely to upset anyone. She's tough, likable, smart and naturally beautiful without ever being made into "the girl who needs saved" or any of that nonsense. Oh, there is added motivation for the character played by Cruise, but throughout most of the movie it is Blunt's character who plans and drives everything forward, reminding everyone who needs reminding that their lives are a small sacrifice if it means stopping the slaughter of the human race.

Elsewhere, Brendan Gleeson is enjoyable in his small role, Bill Paxton steals a couple of scenes as soon as he appears, and Noah Taylor is the scientist who provides some exposition. Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic and Charlotte Riley are the main soldiers who end up stuck with the rookie in their midst. The main thrust of the storyline demands that these characters stay on the sidelines during many sequences, but the script does a great job of making them identifiable enough for whenever they get to move back into focus.

Liman spins a number of plates here and makes it all seem pretty effortless. The action moments are as intense as they need to be, but never headache-inducing, the plotting and pacing are perfect, and the humour running through almost every scene helps to offset the darker elements of the film. Cruise can't just fall asleep every night and then wake up again. He has to be killed. Remember: Live. Die. Repeat.

There are one or two big plot holes (almost always inevitable with this kind of material), but if you're sitting thinking of them while the movie is unfolding then you're a tough viewer to please. I was, admittedly, ever so slightly disappointed by the final few minutes, but this is superior sci-fi action fare, and I don't see why anyone should write it off because of some very minor flaws. On the contrary, I encourage all sci-fi movie fans to check this one out as soon as possible. Ironically, after the first trip you may even want to watch it again.


Fans of the movie may want to check out the source material -

All of these movie reviews come from me watching a LOT of movies, of course, and that is why I keep reminding people that every copy of my book sold gets a few pounds in my pocket, and gets you a good read (if I say so myself). So please feel free to remember me whenever you're visiting Amazon.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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