Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Edge of Tomorrow (Live. Die. Repeat)

 You Can (Not) Advance

The unfortunate fact about reviewing a film that stars Tom Cruise is that it stars Tom Cruise - his off-screen antics so overwhelm whatever credibility he has as a leading man that it gives both a reviewer and (I imagine) the general public an odd feeling when saying anything positive about him. And yet, Cruise does a reasonably solid job in the rather enjoyable science fiction action film Edge of Tomorrow, forcing myself into this uncomfortable situation. So thanks a bunch, Cruise - your ability to turn in a decent (if unchallenging) performance means I am left without the option to make fun of this film for the next five hundred words. Now what on earth am I supposed to talk about?

I suppose it's best to start with the premise: Edge of Tomorrow is a science fiction action/war movie, based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill, which I think we can all agree is a far superior title to the rather generic one we've ended up with. Bizarre tentacled aliens are invading Earth and threatening humanity with extinction, so it's up to an alliance of nations to come together engage in a conflict that looks oddly like World War 2, only with more powered exoskeletons and writhing wiggly things. Army PR-guy and smarmy coward Cage (Tom Cruise) is forced onto the front lies after a rather spectacular display of ill-advised arrogance, and after running around in a panic for a few minutes he is promptly (and rather gruesomely) killed. That's no real spoiler, however, as immediately afterwards Cage snaps awake, forced to relive the day of his death again. And again. And again. And so the interesting part of the film begins - a cross between Starship Troopers and Groundhog Day. where Cage must use whatever information he gains each time he time he dies in order to survive a little longer next time around. With the aide of bad-ass war hero Rite Vrataski (Emily Blunt), Cage must used the constant repeating time loops to figure out a way to stop the invasion and save the Earth.

What makes the film fum is the combination of character development mixed in with the Groundhog Day gimmick - though Cage's attempts to advance and improve his circumstances are constantly thwarted, he slowly but surely grows as a character - by harsh necessity he is forced to become more selfless, heroic, and competent as the loops continue. Given that his purgatorial situation is bought on by his own initial selfishness, it's somewhat fun to watch. Though not as much fun as his repeated, and almost slapstick array of deaths he suffers. Cruise's death-yelp made me chuckle a bit more than it probably should have. Rita's a fairly fun character as well - a complete badass, utterly resigned and world-weary, and Cage's superior in just about every way, but without the in-your-face arrogance that often comes with such characters. Also present is Bill Paxton as a loud mouthed Sergeant, which I mostly mention because I just like to know that the man's working.

However, despite some fun characterization, an intriguing premise and solid black humour, the film is not without flaws. The action scenes lack imagination, the supporting cast are largely a collection of accents masquerading as characters, the third act is much less interesting than the rest of the film and the ending feels like a total ass-pull. However, if you want a sci-fi action film that's a bit more narratively creative than your standard fare, I feel little hesitation in recommending Edge of Tomorrow

This review was first published in Empire Times Magazine

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