Title: Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Writers: Dante Harper, Joby Harold, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, Christopher McQuarrie (Based on All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka)
Distributed By: Warner Bros. Pictures
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor
Release Date: June 6, 2014
MPAA: Rated PG-13
[Editor’s note: You can check out our review of the graphic novel adaptation here.]
Welcome back readers, to another installment of Movie Mondays!!! This week we take a look at Edge of Tomorrow, the new film based on the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The novel was later turned into a manga (Japanese comic book), and most recently adapted into a sci-fi action movie, directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), and starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.
In this movie, the Earth has been devastated by an alien invasion and is struggling to survive in a war where it has become very clear humanity will not win. Suddenly, a soldier named Rita (Blunt) demonstrates unparalleled fighting ability and becomes famous for seemingly being some unstoppable killing machine. Enter our main character, Major Cage (Cruise), a military news correspondent who is “assigned” to cover the front line of the next battle by a particularly unscrupulous General (Gleason) whom the Major had tried to blackmail. On the day of battle, the Major is killed, but not before killing his alien attacker, and somehow hijacking the alien’s power over time. Now whenever Cage “dies” he resets the day to the last time he woke up (the day before the battle). Now knowing how the aliens have become so unbeatable, Cage and Rita join forces as it is revealed that Rita once had this power as well. The two must harness this power to find a way to defeat the alien invaders once and for all.
Let’s get the major complaints out of the way first, because thankfully they are few and far between, but they are enough to seriously hinder me from fully enjoying this film.
First and foremost, the entire premise upon which this story is presented, Major Cage being forced into a battle, doesn’t work, and it’s a major plot-hole that detracts from the overall plot. Major Cage, as he’s introduced in the film, is the voice and face of the military and can be seen and heard talking about the war, our weapons, and our soldiers, everywhere. Yet, when the angered General concocts a weak cover story that Cage is actually a private and deserter posing as a Major, everyone buys it, including his new C.O., Sergeant Farell (Paxton). I find it impossible that none of these soldiers have seen Cage’s face or heard his voice.
Speaking of these soldiers, none of the secondary actors are given any real personality or really anything to do other than spout generic one-liners and die. We’ve got all the army stereotypes that you’ve all seen before. It’s basically the bargain-bin versions of the Colonial Marines from Aliens. There’s the tough chick, the snarky one, the one who doesn’t want to stick his neck out, the one who dies first, blah blah blah, and they’ve all been done to death and done better in other movies. Even big names like Brendan Gleeson don’t really do anything, given thinly written characters that don’t take advantage of the acting power being utilized.
The one exception to this is Bill Paxton, who imbues what could have been a boring throwaway character with so much life and personality that you can’t help but pay attention to him.
Another minor gripe is this film’s general lack of fidelity to the novel it’s based on, primarily with the third act. But to discuss the differences between the two versions would spoil far too much of the story, and considering the movie and novel are both pretty good, and should be checked out by everyone, we shall avoid spoiling things like, oh I don’t know, the ending.
Last but certainly not least in regard to grievances is the film’s completely unforgivable cop-out ending. What starts out as a gripping, moving, emotionally poignant ending is quickly stopped and replaced by a generic “happily ever after” ending that completely negates any impact the film’s final act had whatsoever. It’s hard to actually explain the faults with the film’s ending without giving away everything. Suffice it to say that the movie uses the weird time-rewind in an attempt to have its cake and eat it too, meaning we get the big final battle and the powerful ending as well as the cheesy happy ending that will satisfy the general masses.
Having said all that, I still truly enjoyed this movie. It certainly disappointed in those elements, but it more than made up for them in other areas.
The acting and chemistry between our two stars was phenomenal. Seeing Tom Cruise generally play against type for over half of the movie was a nice surprise, as he goes from cowardly, confused, inexperienced, shell-shocked rookie to battle-hardened veteran before our eyes. Emily Blunt is terrific as the seemingly invincible heroine trying to conceal her all-too-relatable vulnerability. Cage develops stronger feelings for a woman he has known for a very long time who, due to his power, has only known him for less than a day. Rita understands what Cage is going through as she reveals that she went through the same thing with another soldier when she still had the power. It’s a wonderfully unique character dynamic, portrayed wonderfully by the two lead actors.
The cinematography is engaging and captivating, with aerial shots reminiscent of World War II films, and beautifully shot vistas reminiscent of older melodramas. The color palette harkens back to films like Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and James Cameron’s Aliens with gritty grey and sepia battles caught with a cinema-veritae style camerawork that makes you feel like you’re in the invasion, and starkly lit corridors full of gloom and doom. Director Doug Liman works well with cinematographer Dion Beebe to properly utilize “shaky-cam” by using it sparingly in certain action scenes, or when conveying uneasiness in slower character-driven scenes, harkening back to his work with Oliver Wood on The Bourne Identity.
The action pieces are terrific, shot wide enough that we can actually see everything, and pulling in tight when conveying tension, both physical and emotional. And the special effects are top-notch, combining elements of CGI with practical effects, actors noticeably wearing real exo-suits fighting with detailed computer-generated alien creatures.
The overall tone of the film is pitch-perfect, shifting from completely stone-cold serious to hilarious at the drop of a hat, and never in a bad way, presenting a very real emotional sensibility which is an important element to help ground your movie, a necessary thing for science fiction, and especially science-fiction/action, where the premise is so outside the boundaries of reality. For lack of a better description, this movie is a tonal and thematic mash-up of Aliens, Saving Private Ryan, and Groundhog’s Day, where life and death can be at once sobering and absurd.
This is a sci-fi action movie done right; well, almost right. It’s got great action, great technology, provocative characters, great alien creatures, and a compelling story. The only major downside is the cop-out ending.
Overall the movie going experience is a good one, full of great action, witty dialogue, decent sci-fi storytelling, and all backed by a good amount of emotional depth. One glaringly huge plot hole, an annoying plot contrivance at the end, a lack of fidelity to the source material, and a major cop-out for the ending all knock this movie down a peg, however. Edge of Tomorrow earns a score of 8 out of 10.