Before we get into anything else about this film there is one thing I want to say first: this is quite possibly the worst title for a science fiction film ever. Edge of Tomorrow is the most generic, bland, unappealing film title I’ve come across in a while. What does it mean?! It says nothing! What hair-brained moron at the studio decided to change it from the book’s title All You Need is Kill? Even the log line for the film is far better than the title – ‘Live. Die. Repeat.’
For some reason, Tom Cruise has an excellent box office draw. I’ve never understood it myself. The man is arrogant, obnoxious, and fairly uni-dimensional as an actor. But let’s assume that you make it past the generic title and the awful top billed star and get to the cinema to see Edge of Tomorrow, what should you expect? Well, I went in feeling pretty damn prejudiced against this film and was pleasantly surprised. It is no cult classic nor is it particularly original, but it is fun. And what more should you really want from a sci-fi action blockbuster?
Ex-advertising executive and coward, Major Cage (Tom Cruise), is forced to head to the front lines by hard-ass General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson). As cowards will, Cage tries anything to avoid actual fighting. Bumped down to Private, he is forced to fight like any regular soldier. Untrained and completely unprepared, he heads into an ambush and dies.
Cage wakes up again, the day before the battle. He lives the day over and over again, waking again as soon as he dies. His efforts on the battlefield lead him to Rita (Emily Blunt), a seasoned fighter and hero of the army. She alone believes he is telling the truth and hopes to use him to defeat the enemy. But will he be able to save them before he loses his ability?
Time loops, aliens, and big guns
The time loop premise is not something new – for comedy or action (think Groundhog Day and Run, Lola, Run, for instance). Inherent in the time loop story is the possibility for the audience to get bored – it is frustrating for the protagonist and just plain dull for anyone watching the same things happen over and over again. Luckily, Edge of Tomorrow manages to avoid the tedious nature of the repetition for the most part. The only time I started to feel it was getting tedious was in the first act, where they are setting up the premise. Once the premise is established, you no longer have to repeat everything for the audience (or at least any audience member with an imagination and brain).
The world in Edge of Tomorrow is being conquered by an alien race known as ‘Mimics’. They have taken over most of Europe by the time the film begins and the humans know frighteningly little about their enemy. What is evident, however, is that the Mimics are always one step ahead. The creature design and CG for the Mimics is excellent. I loved the way they moved and camouflaged themselves in their surroundings. The area the Mimics take over, as well as the humans storming the French beach, is all extremely reminiscent of World War II, which helps to make the battle and the overwhelming odds against the humans more relatable. I do, however, have to question why (*spoiler alert*) the Mimic’s Omega would bury itself beneath the Louvre. Why is that? Is there any reason other than it is recognizable to the dim-witted humans? Give me some reason…
The fighting ‘machines’ used to make the ordinary soldiers more powerful and effective in the field are reminiscent of the machine Ripley uses at the end of Aliens. With the semi-robot look, we almost get a robot vs. monsters movie, and I’m not sorry about it. The mechs make the soldiers look fierce, but at the end of the day, the tech can only get them so far. Batteries wear out and ammo runs out… what do you have left? When it comes to the final showdown(s), Cage and Rita are left mostly to their own devices. This makes for a more varied fighting style – mechs vs. monsters and humans vs. monsters, keeping the fight scenes interesting and adding more tension as the mechs are lost.
Tom Cruise is Tom Cruise crazy…
When all is said and done, remarkably, I didn’t hate Tom Cruise in this film. As the film opens, his character is a slimy asshole. You are meant to hate him. Gradually, you get to tolerate him as more shit gets piled on him and he struggles to come to terms with it. I would not go so far as to say he was great – in any way, shape, or form – but he was alright. And the humour in the film reminds us that he actually can do comedy (why can’t we have more Tom Cruise like in Tropic Thunder?).
Emily Blunt is excellent. She is believably tough, with the moniker ‘Full Metal Bitch’ suiting her perfectly. You absolutely believe that she is every bit the fighter Rita is and her closed-off personality doesn’t feel forced. It does, however, feel forced that she would (*spoiler alert*) kiss Cage before heading off towards her inevitable death, but hey, it is Hollywood and apparently that means there has to be explicit sexual tension.
What is great about the film is the supporting cast. Throughout the film you will recognize countless faces and excellent performances. Brendan Gleeson and Bill Paxton are the most notable, but there are others too. I was really pleased (and surprised) to see Kick Gurry in the film – Aussies will know him as Jacob Coote in Looking for Alibrandi. It looks like Gurry is also going to be in Jupiter Ascending, so here’s hoping we get to see a bit more of him in the future. Tony Way (Dontos from Game of Thrones), Franz Drameh (Attack the Block), and Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones, Submarine, Tomb Raider, Almost Famous) all put in great supporting performances.
Verdict: Solid sci-fi action thriller. Nothing too amazing or groundbreaking, but fun, full of action, and solid acting. Good fight scenes and great monsters make it worthwhile for sci-fi and monster film fans alike.