Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Edge Of Tomorrow

There's a moment early on in the movie Edge Of Tomorrow where I found myself questioning the movie's logic.  Tom Cruise's character, Major William Cage, is rather forcibly put into the front lines of a major battle against alien invading forces known as "Mimics."  Once at the base, despite his protests that he is an officer, he is treated like a private and nobody seems to recognize him.

This, despite the fact that as near as I can tell, his character has been the major public face of the war effort for some time now.  SOMEBODY should have recognized his face or name.  Someone should have said something.  Even if it was just "hey, I've seen your face on television."

Of course, the movie also doesn't bother explaining why the most "elite" soldier the collective armed forces has is also stationed at this same battle, considering it's supposed to be "relatively quiet."  Maybe it's just a shoddy military.

Anyway, this is my review of Edge of Tomorrow.

 Considering my attitude towards "bait and switch" advertising for films, I should be angry with this film.  Sitting down to watch it, I was expecting something between Mass Effect and Aliens, with lots of guns being fired in one mindless action sequence after another.  In other words, a waste of an actress like Emily Blunt (and even of Tom Cruise).

I wasn't expecting a bizarre mash-up of Starship Troopers and Groundhog Day, which is just as well, because despite the fact that it might be simplest to describe the movie that way, that really doesn't give the film enough credit.

Don't get me wrong, I love Groundhog Day and everything about it, but despite the few instances where the film manages to explore some of the deeper metaphysical ideas surrounding time, death, and life, but it glances over the issues, where Edge of Tomorrow lets the questions involving existence and meaning form themselves and implant themselves into your brain, letting you work out meaning while you're watching.  The questions then linger in your mind (at least, they did in mine) once the movie is over and you find yourself wondering about the nature of relationships, and whether it's possible to be in love with someone you've never met.

Such a story was also told much, much more poorly in 50 First Dates, but where that movie came creepily close to being one long, uncomfortable experience (note: it wasn't that long a movie), Day After Tomorrow keeps things pretty much chaste up until the end of the film, aside from a few really weak pick-up attempts on Cruise's part.

But enough metaphysical discussion, on to the story.  Major William Cage (Cruise) is drafted into the full offensive rush being planned by allied forces after an alien invasion has claimed most of Europe.  Once the siege begins (complete with a beachfront assault very reminiscent of the opening scene in Saving Private Ryan), humanity finds itself being slaughtered by the alien forces.  The aliens, which resemble the twisting tentacled monstrosities from The Matrix or large, blue, electrically glowing wolf/cat monsters depending on your perspective and their "rank," have an unfair advantage in that they're controlled through a hive mind, and the core has the ability to detect when one of the larger "alpha" monsters is killed, and then use an innate ability to rewind time, remember everything that happened, and try again.  Cage kills one of these Alphas but gets covered in its acid-like blood.  When he dies, he wakes up to find it's the day before, the blood having given him the same time control gift with one caveat: he can only trigger it when he dies, and it always takes him back to the same point in time regardless of how long he was alive from that point on.

He winds up connecting with Emily Blunt's character, a woman who previously found herself in the same time-stuck situation Cage is in (but no longer is, in a bit of scientific explanation that comes up again later), and she finds herself meeting Cage over and over again as she tries to teach him how to be a real soldier and defeat the "core."

A lot of people I know don't like Tom Cruise movies.  I think Tom Cruise might be a bit overplayed, but there's a reason he's in so many films: he's actually really good.  Cage starts out very much like non-action hero Cruise, all smooth talk, smiles, and charm.  He's Jerry Maguire in a uniform.  We see his progression from combat novice ("How do you turn off the safety?") to a one man military force through Blunt's training.  We see him learn and grow as he makes mistake after mistake until he figures out how to do something right, just to have the end result be the same and send him back to square one to start over.

There's an interesting supporting cast (including Bill Paxton, who I believe has now faced every possible alien threat known to man), but the show mostly belongs to Cruise and Blunt as a rookie soldier trying to save the world and the weary old soldier who is the only person who understands what the rookie is going through.  

Plus, any time things start to go wrong and she realizes things aren't going to work out "this time through" we get to see her shoot Cruise in the head to start everything over again.

Trust me, these scenes never get old.

It actually is too bad that they put Emily Blunt in this.  Her character was equally as interesting as Cruise's character, but we only got part of her past through snippets of conversation that we knew she wouldn't remember ever saying later.  She would actually work really well as a female Commander Shepard in a Mass Effect movie.

The movie is much, much smarter than it needs to be, and while there were a couple of times I was scratching my head due to the rules of time travel in this film, I never found myself unwilling to accept them.  It gives you the premise of how the gimmick works ("alien blood") and then keeps going, not giving you time to question it or raise your hand to point out how something doesn't work.  The character roles of the secondary characters are also done well, since we see them from the same perspective (Cruise's) the whole film, as he grows, we see the other characters in different lights each time, despite the fact that their behavior never changes unless Cruise causes the change.

Expecting a brainless action shooter, I found myself enjoying the movie more and more as time progressed.  Plot twists actually took me by surprise (when I lose track of how long a movie has been and get surprised like that, it's a good sign I'm involved in the story), and while I think I might have twisted the ending around in a slightly different way than the movie did, I really didn't have that many complaints about it.

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