Thursday, June 5, 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow

EDGE OF TOMORROW: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, directed by Doug Liman (113 min.)

Edge of Tomorrow is a furiously energetic and thrilling summer action spectacle.  From the very beginning it pushes the pedal to the floor and it never lets up.  And even though most elements of the sci-fi story are familiar at their core, this is a truly original, inventive film.  There is also quite a bit of humor and a connection with the characters that keep the story engaging, mostly due to the dedication of its leads, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.  The mechanics of the plot may outsmart the film in the end, but by the time the climax rolled around I was too busy catching my breath to nitpick what was an enjoyable and fresh experience.

The set up for Edge of Tomorrow takes place in a media montage to open the film.  Alien organisms have invaded Europe and are quickly making work of our forces and annihilating the human race.  Eventually, military minds create metal frame contraptions to fit around soldiers and the playing field evens.  The human race's military efforts appear to be making a dent in the alien assault, and an assault on a stronghold in France is planned.  Enter William Cage, a talking head representing the military in soundbites on CNN, discussing the prowess of these new machines and also talking up the growing legend of Rita.  Played by Emily Blunt, Rita is a super soldier leading the charge against these aliens, Mimics as they are called.  Rita is the poster girl for the human effort; Cage, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with military action, hates the sight of blood, and when he is forced into frontline action by a stubborn General (Brendan Gleeson) he tries his damnedest to get out of it.  It is refreshing to see Tom Cruise eschewing his typical Cruise character who is awesome at everything.  This time around, his character starts off as a coward.

Cage is thrown into action in one of these metal suits and, in a panic, kills one of the Mimics before it eventually kills him.  And just like that, he wakes up back at the military base, starting the entire day over again, thoroughly confused. Despite his confusion and his attempts at an explanation, Cage is thrown back into the fray, is killed, and starts the day over yet again.  This pattern continues until he gets a little better each day.  Then during one of these trips into battle he meets Rita on the beach and walks her through a few daring misses.  Rita seems confused by Cage's psychic abilities, but it turns out she knows what is happening to him.

I won't say more about the why or how of Cage's condition because anything can spoil the clever twists and turns.  Cage repeats the day and the battle, employing Rita's help and the duo get a little further towards their ultimate goal each time around.  Director Doug Liman is having fun with this Groundhog Day structure, as Cage trains every day and when he breaks a bone, Rita shoots him and they start the day over.  There is some real humor from Cruise in this second act until the plot gets ramped up and the stakes get pushed higher.  The action in Edge of Tomorrow is breathtaking, and it gets better with each restarted day.  There is quite a bit of CGI necessary to make the suits and the aliens function properly, but it is seamless and never distracting.  The opening scenes, where Bill Paxton - playing an Army Sergeant - does that Bill Paxton thing and chews scenery like a champ, sets a classic, militant tone in a futuristic world.  I can't imagine invading a beach in France was a coincidence.

It is refreshing to see Cruise play basically the opposite of his typical character, and Emily Blunt has really found a niche playing headstrong and athletic women in sic-fi films.  And just when the repeated days might get redundant, Liman and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (along with a team of writers) mix up the action with some car chases and scenery switches at just the right time.  The balance of the action is key in the film functioning from start to finish.  And as I said earlier, maybe the mechanics of the plot, in the end, outsmart the finale.  I can't quite make sense of the way things ended up in those final moments, but honestly it didn't detract from my nearly euphoric enjoyment.