Surprisingly Pretty Ok: A Review of Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow.

edge

Film: Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Primary Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
U.S. Release Date: 6 June 2014

Full Disclosure: When I saw a trailer for Edge of Tomorrow several months ago, I immediately wrote it off as something I would never see and never care to see. Tom Cruise saves the world from aliens? Oh yes, very exciting and original. From it’s trailer alone, Edge of Tomorrow gave me little reason to expect it would be watchable, let along decent. Buuuutttt, after several people I follow on the interwebs seemed pleased with the film, I decided to give it a chance, and earlier this evening, I went and saw it. I haven’t done much reflecting since then sorry I was crocheting a scarf but I thought I’d go ahead and post a brief review anyway.

Thoughtful, Entertaining, and Surprisingly OK—Despite it’s Flaws
I don’t feel as enthusiastically positive about this film as some reviewers, but I did enjoy it. Edge of Tomorrow may not have a remarkably original premise, but it wholeheartedly embraces that premise all the same. The film also has just the right amount of wit and with solid performances from Cruise and Blunt, it deserves to be counted among the best of this summer’s blockbusters.

Sometime in the future aliens called mimics invade earth. By the time Edge of Tomorrow starts, they seem to completely control continental Europe and a good deal of Asia. William Cage (Cruise) is a military spokesman who is most certainly not a soldier. When a British Officer, General Brigham (Gleeson), decides to send Cage to war anyway, Cage refuses which turns out to be a very bad idea. Brigham sends Cage to join a squad of fresh recruits, fully expecting him to die in the next day’s D-Day-style invasion. Not long after Cage gets to the war zone, he does (die, that is), but not before getting the blood of a very particular alien on him. After dying, he wakes up where he was 24 hours previously and does the whole thing over again (Phil Connors anyone?). And he keeps doing it, again, and again, and again, learning a little each time. He eventually teams up with celebrity soldier Rita Vrataski (who knows what’s happening to him woo) and then continues to do the same thing again and again, but now with some guidance. Ultimately, Cage is a better person for having been made to repeat the same horrific day so many times, and humanity gets to regain control of the planet. Hooray for people.

Several reviewers compare the film to a video game; they don’t do so without reason (both the content and structure are very videogamesque), but seeing as there are probably a number of video games more thoughtfully and interestingly written than some films, there is no reason such a comparison should necessarily be seen as negative.

The plot itself feels rather derivative, but the writing and the performances make that ok. Based on the Japanese novel All You Need is Kill (which was, reportedly, inspired by the Halo video games), Edge of Tomorrow also references and is clearly inspired by other familiar works, Groundhog Day and Saving Private Ryan among them. Still, I’m surely not one to knock a film simply for being derivative. Liman’s film is good enough to stand on it’s own legs, and it takes its material to a new enough place that it seems silly to fault it for lacking originality. Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. It references other films proudly, and has fun while doing it. Edge of Tomorrow is a film whose primary goal is clearly to entertain, and it succeeds in doing so. Better yet, it entertains without being totally mindless. There isn’t a whole lot more you can expect from a Cruise-action-alien-summer-mega-movie, is there?

Smartly, the film doesn’t spend much time explaining the mimics, or the invasion, or the time-reset junk. To do so would make an already somewhat ludicrous plot too much to bear. For the most part, the dynamic between Cage and Vrataski is something to smile about. They form an interesting, and entertaining duo. The film doesn’t sexualize it’s female lead as much as one might expect, and Cage doesn’t really have time to. When was the last time you saw a female action lead in a movie this big treated so well? (Probably last summer when you saw Pacific Rim, but you get my point).

Speaking of Vrataski, she is, for me, the best part of the film. She’s a lady career soldier who kicks ass without thinking twice. She is intelligent, no-nonsense, and cares more about her mission than anything. Rita is a bad ass and Blunt is (somewhat unexpectedly) confident in the role. One could easily imagine Edge of Tomorrow with Cage and Vrataski’s roles switched (leaving the dudebro to show the lady-without-a-clue how to fight and save the world), but why would you want to?

Cruise is also quite good in the film. No, his performance isn’t unlike what one might expect from him, but it’s just what the role calls for. A weaker performance from Cruise could have left Edge of Tomorrow doomed from the beginning.

The live, die, repeat thing could have easily gotten very old and dull, but it doesn’t. Surely the editors and the writing deserve credit for keeping the film moving despite the time looping business.

One weakness of the film is how little impact is made by its supporting characters. Plenty of people die in this film, but the film also doesn’t do much to encourage viewers to become invested in anyone but Cage and Vrataski. At first I didn’t mind this and thought it may even be deliberate, but as the film went on (and certain side characters returned to the narrative fold), it became apparent that the film’s failure to properly develop some of those characters really was a problem. By the end of the film, I still didn’t know many of their names, nor did I care. The film also loses steam about 2/3 of the way through. The film’s climax and conclusion are not particularly interesting and don’t really live up to what precedes them. It’s a shame, because a better ending could have really made this film stand-out.

Still, Edge of Tomorrow is a solid and witty summer action film. Blunt as Vrataski alone is worth the 2 hours, and Cruise embraces the role of Cage so fully that one can almost lose sight of the fact that Edge of Tomorrow is basically Groundhog Day with less romance and jokes and with a lot more combat and aliens.
Order Edge of Tomorrow

That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading.

What did you think of Edge of Tomorrow? Leave a comment below and let me know. 

2 thoughts on “Surprisingly Pretty Ok: A Review of Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow.

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