Movies

Review: 'Edge of Tomorrow'

Three stars

Game over. Restart. It's an option familiar in the virtual worlds of video games but, alas, not in real life. The new sci-fi action movie "Edge of Tomorrow" uses the narrative structure of a video game to present a "what-if" scenario: What if we could keep pressing "restart" every time we fail?

That's a fantasy that's been dramatically explored before, in works like David Ives' playlet "Sure Thing" and Harold Ramis' 1993 film "Groundhog Day." "Edge of Tomorrow" -- based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka's light novel "All You Need Is Kill" -- doesn't have anything new to contribute, other than wedding the concept to a different genre, but it's a good fit, resulting in a fairly eye-popping futuristic war story with a clever (to a point) structure.

Tom Cruise stars as Major William Cage of U.S. Army Media Relations. With Earth losing a war to powerful tentacular, mouth-glowing aliens, Cage is content being just shy of a draft dodger, with little more than decades-earlier, never-applied ROTC training to fall back on should he find himself in combat. And find himself in combat he does when he ticks off General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), gets busted down to private, and winds up on a suicide mission. Cruise nicely plays Cage's anti-heroic freak-outs, which add flavor and stoke a rooting interest in his surviving long enough to redeem himself.

In a sequence that suggests the alien-war equivalent of D-Day, the Army lands on the West Coast of France and proceeds to get slaughtered by the aliens. But when Cage gets face-fried with alien goop, he reawakens with a start a day before the battle. As he repeatedly relives the day, he eventually discovers that Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) -- celebrated as the "Angel of Verdun" -- holds the key to the mystery of what's happening to him, and together, they may be the only two people who can save humanity.

Basically, "Edge of Tomorrow" follows the same beats as "Groundhog Day," but raising the stakes. Cage first must work through his Cassandra complex, then accept his lot and work to change his situation for the better. By nature of the plot device, "Edge of Tomorrow" also implicitly deals with some philosophical questions about how we live our lives: We only get one shot at any given interaction or situation, but if we could heighten our sensitivities, we could communicate much better, get much further, and even see strangers as they really are rather than writing them off in an instant. And, as in "Groundhog Day," the protagonist learns selflessness and finds love.

The acting is expectedly solid (Bill Paxton has some fun with the role of Cage's befuddled master sergeant), and thanks to director Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity"), the impressively realized battle sequences are rip-roaring. It's all a bit wearying by the home stretch, and a resolution that (like much of the film that precedes it) only sort of makes sense. But it's summer, and we're not supposed to think too much at the movies. This is a game worth playing once, though you probably won't be dying to push "Restart" any time soon.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material. One hour, 53 minutes.

Comments

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 2:42 am

Tom Cruise is becoming the master of the B science fiction movie. Last year's Oblivion and this years "Edge Of Tomorrow" thankfully do not share the over-exposed leathery face of Morgan Freeman, but they do share a general B movie quality, even though I'd have to rate them both slightly higher for being smart and clever.

Of the two "Edge Of Tomorrow" is the more clever, it also moves in and out of mood very deftly.

The premise of the time travel resets as mentioned is a trick other movies has used to great effect, and it so here.

The effects in the movie are very good, but when they reach a bit too far as in showing the whole city of Paris wrecked by aliens, or the alien enemies close up things start to look a bit cheap.

It is a clever, fun and well balanced movie, smart for science fiction, but also superficial and mere entertainment. I feel science fiction is pretty much wasted is there is no really core idea in a movie, and "Edge Of Tomorrow" is just a wild ride with no depth and a lot of gimmickry.

Another thing that held the visuals back was the same thing that was a bummer as far back as "Starship Troopers", which is a far superior movie and actually had a point ... but that is the incompetent imagining of the power suit, weapons or the modes of future battles.

"Edge Of Tomorrow" does better than "Starship Troopers", which just dropped the idea when the tests they tried did not look good. The power suits Cruise and the other soldiers wear just did not look real ... or that functional.

Still, it's a great entertaining escapist action, I agree with the reviewer though, most would not want to sit through this twice.


Posted by No more Tom Terrific, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I think the world is topped off on Tom Cruise. Besides,the title sounds like some afternoon soap opera.


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Tom Cruise does a pretty good job in these last two movies that he has done. I normally do not see Tom Cruise movies, but I have a weakness for Sci-Fi and special effects ... and of course it is nice if they have a plot. Cruise's stuff is a bit lightweight but entertaining and cool visions of the future.

But if you are right about people getting antagonistic to Cruise ... it's probably fun for them that during the first half of the movie he gets pounded and dies in about a thousand different ways and goes from a sniveling arrogant coward to a human being. This movie is done pretty well ... it's just not good enough to really watch twice or talk much about.

It's certainly better than Johnny Depp's "Trancendance" which was pretty awful.


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