REVIEW: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

It might have struggled at the box office, but R.G. thinks Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi creation is certainly worth a look.

Time-travel is a plot device that is both fun and complex in terms of execution. No matter how many holes you tightly plug-up, new ones are guaranteed to pop-up just to further complicate things. Regardless, films with this concept are always amusing to watch because you admire the ambition as much as you laugh at the ridiculousness. The Bourne Identity director Doug Liman takes a stab at it by delivering what is dubbed to be a mixture between Groundhog Day and Starship Troopers. A strange mash-up indeed, but the result is a very entertaining science fiction flick that delivers the right amount of action, drama and humour with an otherwise bleak premise, and Liman takes full advantage of the time-travelling loop to deliver outlandishly clever set-ups.

Based on a light novel called All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, mainland Europe has been invaded by extra-terrestrial beings called Mimics. William Cage (Tom Cruise), a high ranking officer of the United Defence Forces, arrives in London to meet General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), where he is forced to go to the frontlines on the beaches of France. Refusing the order and attempting to blackmail the general because he has little to no combat experience, he gets arrested and is sent to a base in Heathrow Airport, with his ranking demoted to Private. There, he is greeted by Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton) and introduced to his squad of misfits, and with no other way to get out, he reluctantly joins in the landing. The attack turns into a massacre as the aliens saw them coming, and Cage dies when he puts a mine between him and an Alpha, a large version of a Mimic. The creature’s blood pours over Cage’s body and he is instantly sent back to the previous day. Trying to figure out his new found powers, he gains the help of Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a well-renowned soldier who has experienced the same phenomenon he has, and they use it to their advantage in the hopes of stopping the Mimics from winning the war.

Edge of Tomorrow sees Liman back on top form in his best directorial effort since 2002’s The Bourne Identity. With a premise that revolves around going back to the same day over and over again, Liman is efficient when it comes to staging repeated scenes, and they never get tedious because there is enough variety in the settings and scenarios. The concise script gives the narrative a surprising degree of intelligence which makes it easy to follow without being too confusing or overwhelming. The film feels self-aware in terms of repeating itself, so it gives those replay moments a darkly comedic and kinetic edge. Thankfully, Tomorrow doesn’t go overboard with the concept, keeping the movie running at a steady pace and allowing the overarching story to flow with it. Setting up Cruise to go back to the beginning whenever he dies is almost reminiscent of a video game. The inevitable massacre on the beach plays like a level that is hard as balls, but you have infinite lives and you remember things that happened before your demise.

Liman – known for his high-octane action in his body of work – doesn’t hold back in showing off impressive set-pieces that have a good mixture of convincing CGI and genuine practical effects, from the cool-looking mech-suits to how the soldiers interact with the aliens. With the time-loop, it’s guaranteed that you will see the same action many times, which does soften the sense of peril. Fortunately, the editing is brisk enough and keeping them from becoming tiring. In between, there is a good amount of emotional weight just to balance out the bombastic moments, allowing more than enough space for character development.

The acting is brilliant across the board. Being his latest sci-fi outing after last year’s Oblivion, Cruise is still on top leading man form, portraying a character with a surprisingly well-written arc that you don’t usually see in action films. Cage starts off as a coward who is scared enough to blackmail a general in order to save his own skin, but he is instantly likeable because there is still a pinch of nobility about him – a trait that increases as the film progresses. Even if you don’t like Cruise, this is a movie for you because you get to see him die many times. Rita (Blunt’s second time-travel role after Looper) is a complex and ass-kicking deuteragonist who has an instantly infectious chemistry with Cage because of how different and similar they are at the same time. Supporters like Gleeson and the brilliantly unrecognisable Paxton play their roles well even if they’re downplayed throughout the movie. And the Mimics, while lacking in variety, are pretty creative and scary in design, and their contortionist-like movements make them incredibly creepy and threatening.

Liman does a fantastic job pulling off the tricksy time-travel concept and delivers an exhilarating sci-fi ride. It does end on a rushed and nonsensical note but the rest of the flick is just a lot of fun, filled with exciting action and ridiculous scenarios. Thanks to Liman’s direction and the tight screenplay, the loop never gets tiring and it’s clever enough without being pretentious. Plus the presence of Cruise and Blunt, as well as the supporting cast, gives the movie a likeable level of charisma. It’s just a shame that its not doing so well at the box office, being in competition with a comedy sequel and another young adult adaptation, because Edge of Tomorrow is one of the most surprisingly delightful entries in the summer blockbuster season. See it… and then see it again.

R.G. Villanueva

Contributing game and film writer for SquabbleBox. Occasional DJ and instrumentalist, amateur programmer, all-around lazy guy.

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