Edge of Tomorrow

4 Overall Score
Action: 4/10
Dialogue: 4/10
Direction: 4/10

Fun action sequences and Tom Cruise is as watchable as ever.

The film is tone deaf to the imagery it invokes and the sci-fi elements are lacking.

Edge of Tomorrow
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, 3 Arts Entertainment
2014

Tom Cruise is a great runner. I mean really good. He can sell the shit out of a guy who has to run really hard, really fast, away from or towards something. And lucky for me and anyone else who appreciates Cruise’s run-acting, there is a lot of it in Doug Liman’s new sci-fi, explosion-fest Edge of Tomorrow, adapted from the Hiroshi Sakurazaka novel All You Need Is Kill. And it’s a good thing that Cruise can sell an action film so well, because Edge of Tomorrow has a hard time selling itself.

It’s a premise that immediately invokes Harold Ramis’ seminal 1993 comedy Groundhog Day (and more recently, Duncan Jones’ Source Code): one man is forced to live the same day over and over again. Tom Cruise is William Cage, a solider by uniform only. His job as a propaganda master, is to encourage others to join the fight while he hides in front of TV cameras. But when Earth is attacked by a violent hoard of alien invaders known as Mimics, Cage is ordered to join the front-line. He’s outfitted in a super-soldier exoskeleton that he doesn’t know how to use, and is quickly killed. But lucky for Cage, he has inexplicably found himself in a time-loop that allows him to restart his day every time he dies.

With the outstanding action sequences in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and X-Men: Days of Future Past, a precedent has been set for 2014 summer blockbusters, and it would seem that Edge of Tomorrow is up to the challenge. Doug Liman (Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity) has proven capable as an action director and the sequences in Edge of Tomorrow are quite exciting. However, Liman seems completely tone-deaf to the imagery the film invokes. The film was released on June 6th, the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. Much of the film takes place on a French beach, as our heroes are repeatedly killed by a monstrous horde. It would take the most naive of audiences to think this happened by coincidence. The similarities to the Allied invasion of Normandy are endless: large barriers on the shore, soldiers emerging from the sea and taking to the beach, lifeless bodies buried in the sand, transport helicopters that look very similar to World War II era Landing Crafts. Eventually it becomes insulting to see one of the nastiest battles in history repeatedly invoked in a film that, by its very nature, is so cavalier in its outlook on death and dying.

The sci-fi elements in Edge of Tomorrow are shaky from the very beginning. The time loop seems to be the result of a bio-chemical aspect of the Mimics, and that’s about as much concrete science-fiction as we get. The actual mechanics of how and why this is happening and how to stop it is usually explained in intensely dull exposition dumps where the characters may as well break the fourth-wall and tell the audience “Don’t ask questions, it works because the movie is telling you it does.” And this kind of don’t-ask-questions story-telling mechanics, causes the premise of the entire film to gradually collapse in on itself, like a stilted house made of rotted wood. Furthermore, the Mimics themselves are a lazy alien-creation: just a ball of flesh with a mouth of razor sharp teeth and an impossible amount of tentacles. And the film seems not to care for its aliens either, as they’re often hidden by the editing, until it’s imperative that they be seen. This results in our heroes shooting and slashing at aliens that are just off screen while tentacles–that may as well be pool noodles coated in crisco–flail in and out of the frame.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, Tom Cruise is able to sell William Cage, a rather unlikeable character. And furthermore, Cage is an action hero unlike those Cruise has played before; in that he’s kind of a prick who’s terrible at his job. This is by design of course, and as Cage gets better at his job and grows as a person, Cruise is able to deftly depict a man whose perspective on life and warfare has been adjusted. And it’s not just Cruise, Emily Blunt, as Rita–otherwise known as the Angel of Verdun or Full Metal Bitch (yeah, that one’s not great)– gives a three-dimensional performance to a character that could have just faded into the pages of the screenplay. And Bill Paxton, playing a southern military officer from Kentucky, gets to chew all of the scenery in just the way that you’d want Bill Paxton to chew scenery.

Edge of Tomorrow is the closest thing to a video game experience I’ve had in the theater: fight, shoot, die, game over, restart. This allows for some exciting sequences and fun action set pieces. But unlike a video game–where the narrative can be a zero but the game can still be considered a success–context cannot be divorced from the film. Ultimately, Edge of Tomorrow is a film where gaps in logic, science and sensitivity are replaced with explosions and special effects, and we’re asked not to care.

 

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Craig Schroeder
Author: Craig Schroeder View all posts by
I am a graduate of Florida State University, studying Creative Writing and History. Right now I work a desk job but I dream all day of making a living writing comics. I formed an indie label based in Tallahassee called Gentleman Baby Comics and HIT! is our debut comic. I read a lot of comics. I watch a lot of movies. I drink too much soda. I love a great television show.

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