Sunday, June 8, 2014

Film Review: Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow

Modern day science fictions films are usually so concerned with special effects and CGI, that they too often sacrifice story for style. Now I'm not one to badmouth style over substance, as long as that style is indeed worth it, but again, with most modern day sci-fi films, it just isn't worth it at all. Sure, recent quality genre films like Pacific Rim or the latest Godzilla (to a point), or maybe Looper or Limitless or even Oblivion (also with Tom Cruise) or Battleship or Gareth Edwards indie trip, Monsters, only went so far in capturing the imagination of this critic. But I need a little something else to tickle my sci-fi fancy. In recent years, only a handful of sci-fi films have managed such a thing. Indie films like Another Earth, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Upstream Color, genre-redefiners like Melancholia and The Tree of Life, more mainstreamy fare such as J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot and Duncan Jones time-shifting Source Code, the oft-maligned but quite spectacular Prometheus, and 2009 Best Picture nominee District 9 are about it for the last five years or so. These are the films that have defined quality, out-of-the-box science fiction cinema lo this past half decade. One can now add Edge of Tomorrow into that select mix.

Directed by Doug Liman, and starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow, adapted from the novel "All You Need is Kill," by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, is the story of one man who keeps living a single terrible day over and over and over again. But there is more to the story than this mere Groundhog Day riff. Basically, the film begins five years after an alien race has landed and taken over most of Europe. Cruise is a Major in the US Army, but more importantly, a cocky PR talking head who sits behind a desk during this war with the aliens, telling the big brass what to do to look better in the polls. Well, cut to the morning after pissing off a general, and Cruise's cocksure Major is now private and a deserter, and finds himself readying to be dropped onto the beach of Normandy for a full frontal attack on the enemy. And yes, this film opened on the seventieth anniversary of D-Day. No mere coincidence, I am sure. The only problem Cruise has is that his character is an abject coward, with absolutely no combat training or experience, and is hated by his fellow grunts. And the guy should be afraid, because (no spoiler alert needed, since this is kind of the whole basis of the film, and is shown in the trailers) he dies on that beach. But then he wakes up at the start of the previous day. And then he dies on that beach. Then he wakes up the previous morning. Then he dies on that beach. Eventually Cruise's shang-hai'd coward begins to figure things out, and with the help of Emily Blunt's war hero, things really begin to heat up.

I have never been the biggest fan of Cruise, but I have generally liked him, and believe him to be perhaps not a great actor, a better actor than many give him credit for being. Sure, the guy's had some bombs, but many of his films I would cal good, if not very good, and even great. Films such as Magnolia, Minority Report, The Color of Money, Eyes Wide Shut, Collateral, A Few Good Men, Born on the Fourth of July, The Outsiders, Risky Business, even the oft-maligned Valkyrie. Edge of Tomorrow is surely up there as well. The guy knows how to play an action hero, even one that starts out a craven coward, as he does here. And don't worry sports fans, Cruise does gain his swagger back before film's end - but that was probably pretty inevitable, eh. But it's just not Cruise's innate ability to keep us on our action-oriented toes. Liman's ability to keep this story of time looping, a story that could easily implode all over the place, fresh and even funny (one of my favourite recent sci-fi's, the aforementioned Source Code, has a similarly time swirling storyline), as well as keeping the action believable yet brilliant (but we already know the director can do action, as The Bourne Identity can bear witness too), is a big part of why Edge of Tomorrow (despite it's silly, soap opera-esque name) is one kick-ass of a good time at the movies, as well as an early candidate for my eventual best of the year list. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

1 comment:

  1. I am not into his scientology B.S. nor his Napoleon control thoughts but he is a good actor. I liked him in Magnolia, The Last Samurai and I really loved Valkyrie. He was also excellent as the killer in a film that escapes my memory banks that he was in with Jamie Foxx. I never had a desire to see him in Born on the 4th and was ecstatic that Daniel Day Lewis won that year. I want to see this film too as it looks quite good and more intelligent than the usual sci fi we all will die future flicks