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Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Jonas Armstrong

Written By: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John Henry Butterworth Directed By: Doug Liman

The Short Version

It’s a sci fi take on D-Day with an alien time warp twist.

Video gamers will especially find something to appreciate here.

The action is fun, exciting, and visually outstanding.

The two leads put in very strong performances.

Edge of Tomorrow is well worth the look.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

CHEDDAR.

Good stuff.  Tasty.  Of course you want to go back to it over and over again.


Pairs Well With...

BEAUGOLAIS NOUVEAU.

Each vintage promises a new experience.  Unless…

“What do we do now?”

“I don't know!  We’ve never made it this far before!”


Do you like to play video games?  Specifically, do you like modern action adventure role playing games? 

However you answer the question, Edge of Tomorrow proves to be a fun, exciting sci fi action adventure escape, but if you’re a gamer, there are some extra layers of meaning that make it all the more interesting of an experience… despite the fact that Edge of Tomorrow is not based on a video game (it’s based on a novel/manga), nor has it even spawned one as a marketing tie-in.

The movie follows Bill Cage (Tom Cruise, Jack Reacher), a slick marketing guy who got a P.R. job and a Major’s rank in the military to serve as a talking head putting a positive spin on humanity’s efforts to beat back a now five-year-long alien invasion.  When a general (Brendan Gleeson, Mission: Impossible 2) in charge of a forthcoming assault bearing a remarkable resemblance to D-Day decides he needs a goat in the likely event that things go wrong, he conspires to have Cage busted down to Private and tossed in with a front line combat unit, with the expectation that the hapless P.R. guy will die quickly.  And so he does…

…but not before killing an unusually large alien by sheer dumb luck and becoming saturated with (and swallowing a large amount of) its blood.  Next thing he knows, it’s the previous morning again, as if time had reset itself and given him – and humanity – another chance to survive.  He soon discovers that he just needs to keep dying before the day of the battle is over – and to avoid any blood transfusions along the way – in order to start over again.  Start over… and train… and figure out the best use of gear and equipment… and learn how to win the day…

Does that story mechanic sound familiar to anyone?

If you’re primarily a moviegoer, the first thing to come to mind might have been Groundhog Day, wherein a curmudgeonly weatherman must relive the day over and over again until he discovers how to be decent human being (and get the girl in the process).  Indeed, it’s been suggested that the female lead in this film – Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, Looper) – got her first name as a nod to the female lead in the Harold Ramis classic.

But if you’re a gamer…  If you’re a gamer, Edge of Tomorrow is the everyday experience of your virtual second life.  You understand Bill Cage because you have been – you are – Bill Cage.

Just like a fresh character dropped into a video game, Bill Cage has no skills, no friends, and no clue.  He doesn’t know the lay of the land, he doesn’t know the battle plan, he doesn’t know what to say when people talk to him, and he has no idea how his gear works.  Of course he dies quickly, just like any noob.  But then he starts over again, just like a dead character in a game, and the scenes play out exactly as they did before, so eventually, after dying enough times, he figures out the best way to handle – and survive – any given situation, until he can work through the most optimum scenario up to the last one every time from memory.  In other words… he learns the fights, he learns the cutscenes, and he learns the game.

If you’re a gamer, this realization makes Edge of Tomorrow a richer and more fascinating flick, and worth watching just for the novelty of how well the story device is presented.  And it is indeed presented well, whether you get the gaming nuances or not, for just as Harold Ramis was able to keep Bill Murray living the same day over and over again from feeling like tedious repetition, so does director Doug Liman keep Edge of Tomorrow from playing like an exercise in redundancy.  There’s just enough repetition to get the point across and to show off the little differences between iterations, but the story and the characters always move forward (which is a remarkable feat when all but one of those characters is theoretically standing still).

And though Edge of Tomorrow has its share of stock characters – I will admit that after a very short time, I never wanted to see or especially hear Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton, Aliens) again – the people who count the most – the two leads – are worth getting to know.  Both accomplish this by tweaking stereotypes.

Cage takes the typical hero stereotype – Maverick from Top Gun, anyone? – and dials it back to something far more interesting at the start: a literal everyman who is utterly unqualified to kick a playground soccer ball, much less an alien’s ass.  Sure, he becomes a Marty Stu type figure by the end – as all video game heroes do through experience points and acquisition of gear – but there’s a journey to that point that makes all the difference, and it is not a quick one.  What’s more, when he reaches the peak of his abilities, he gets slapped with a major vulnerability, so he still never really hits full-on “God Mode.”  He also retains his basic humanity throughout; indeed, it only increases so that he goes from being a rather slimy bureaucratic tool to being a decent person.  And no, it’s not just the writing.  Tom Cruise keeps on proving that he’s really an actor and not just a movie star.  Good stuff from him once again.

Emily Blunt, meanwhile, starts of as the Mary Sue ultracommando of video game lore (though she wears real armor and not “bikini armor,” thank you), complete with both badass guns and a Voltron sword that’s straight out of an anime factory.  She holds the Tough Killer fort down while her co-star learns the ropes, and happily takes him down a peg at regular intervals to keep him from getting too cocky.  But she’s not the stereotype that the “Full Metal Bitch” nickname would suggest, either; there’s a human under that armor, and she’s got her own secrets that help the movie’s storyline – and her willingness to assist Cage, even understanding that she must be convinced anew every single day – make that much more sense.  Nor does she shrink when Cage finally blossoms; again, this is a fully realized, very human character, and Emily Blunt does an outstanding job playing her.

As for the aliens – called “mimics” for no apparent reason, because they mimic nothing – they are primarily tentacle CGI monstrosities, but the texturing makes them blend in with the real world better than most, and they’re pretty easy to take.  The action is fast and furious and carries the chaos of real conflict, but it can still be followed by the human brain without causing headaches.  The production design is also well-realized.  Visually, I have no real complaints beyond the needless and rather unremarkable stereoscope conversion.  

The rest… the rest I’ll leave for you to discover.

Bottom line, I walked into Edge of Tomorrow expecting relatively mediocre sci fi action; what I got was much better than that.  No, it’s not perfect – Bill Paxton’s annoying character would need to disappear for that – but it’s well worth the watch; on the big screen minus the stereoscope if possible, and then again later when it becomes available for the home theatre.  I, for one, intend to add it to the permanent collection.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, June, 2014


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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