On the Silver Screen – Edge of Tomorrow

Jun 8, 2014 | Posted by in Movies
Top 10 Best Films of 2014

Well, we have Tom Cruise in a leading role again, he does seem to be on a mission to convince people that he’s still viable as a leading man. Say what you want about his personal life but as a star the guy just can’t help but be charismatic and instantly likeable.
In this film humanity is at War with a dangerous alien race known only as Mimics and Cruise plays William Cage, a major in the military who has never seen a day of combat as his role involves creating and distributing the propaganda to encourage others to enlist. He is betrayed by that system when they decide to drop him into the D-Dayesque beach landing that is designed to be the final push that will win them this War. Cage’s first battle goes about as well as you might expect given his lack of combat experience but he gets lucky in that he gains the ability to restart the ordeal every time he dies. He uses this ability to perfect his skills and formulate a plan to stop the aliens once and for all with the help of Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski who has been through the respawning experience before.

On the surface this film looks like a video game -a war scenario featuring mech suits and constant respawning will be common to most gamers out there. Comparisons can also be drawn to Bill Murray’s classic film Groundhog Day but there is a little more to it than these surface comparisons. Many films feature a scenario that involves the protagonist getting from point A to point B and overcoming obstacles along the way before accomplishing whatever task they needed to get to point B to do. This film is no different in that regard but the conceit of constantly dying and restarting while learning from mistakes made previously and adjusting the strategy accordingly works really well.

Such a concept will pretty much only be as strong as the editing and Edge of Tomorrow is certainly no slouch in that regard. Despite the fact that the same scenarios are repeated over and over for the most part the film somehow makes each instance feel fresh. I really liked that there was variety in the execution -sometimes we see the first time Cage experiences a scenario, others we come in somewhere in the middle. It all really helps in keeping these repetitious scenarios feel fresh and interesting. My favourite sequence involved Cage and Vrataski using trial and error to fight their way across the beach advancing ever so slightly each time as well as showing increasing frustration at the repeated failures.

In terms of characterisation there’s some interesting stuff going on here. Cruise’s Cage starts off as being a selfish coward and grows into someone more heroic through his repeated experiences. This type of role is fairly uncommon for Cruise who normally starts out as being the massively skilled hero and not really changing in any measurable way throughout. He plays the terrified coward really well and the urgency of his certain death after being thrown into a situation that he isn’t the least bit trained for is well portrayed.

Emily Blunt’s Vrataski is a very strong and independently focused character who gives off subtle hints of fear and dread at being forced into a combat situation following the loss of her respawning abilities. She guides Cage through his character arc by training him and filling him in on the rules of his new ability. I like how her character isn’t defined by her relationship to the male protagonist which is somewhat refreshing in a summer blockbuster. Emily Blunt plays this character really well, bringing across a vulnerability to something that could so easily have been a one dimensional badass woman warrior type.

The rest of the cast is rounded out by your standard meathead soldiers. Bill Paxton’s PG version of Full Metal Jacket‘s Gunnery Sergeant Hartman with his insulting one liners comes across as cheesy yet entertaining and Brendan Gleeson is sufficiently rife for dislike but other than that the remainder of the cast are nothing to write home about.

Sadly, it’s not all great. I found the ending to be atrociously lazy and ill thought out. The action climax in general could use a lot of work, it’s a shame such an interesting movie is brought down by such a generic climax and silly, contrived ending. To explain why I found it lazy would be a significant spoiler but when you see it you’ll understand. Also, frequent reference is made to the Mimics wanting something from humanity but we never find out why, I wasn’t as invested in the conflict as I could have been due to a lack of information about the enemy’s motivation.

Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of this film. The premise was superbly executed with interesting lead characters and tight pacing. Tom Cruise is as charismatic as ever and brings some real depth to William Cage. Save for the poorly developed enemy and the lazy ending I’d heartily recommend this film. If you don’t like Tom Cruise and want to see him killed in a huge variety of ways then this definitely is the film for you.