Review: Edge Of Tomorrow

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Tom Cruise is Warrior Reincarnage

The concept, or Full Metal Pitch, of Edge Of Tomorrow is simple – Earth is losing in a ground war against a nebulous alien threat, called Mimics. These aliens have the ability (unbeknownst to most of humankind) to manipulate time itself, so they always win. Europe is virtually lost. Inspired  by one victory from Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski, aka The Angel of Verdun / Full Metal Bitch, Operation Downfall is a go.

Trouble is, slick, cowardly ad man turned United Defence Force PR guy Major Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) isn’t so keen on flying a drop ship rather than his desk. He’s ordered to sell the invasion from the Normandy beach head with an embedded camera crew. When he tries to blackmail the General (a bluff Brendan Gleeson) he’s busted down the ranks, tasered, and wakes up in the Heathrow staging area. Unable to even switch the safety off in his bulky exo-suit weapons platform, he lasts five nerve-wracking minutes in the slaughter house before he’s killed. The catch is, he takes a Mimic with him – infected by its blood, he reboots in boot camp, fated to live, die, repeat.

What follows will be familiar to video game enthusiasts, as Cage must engage mental and muscle memory to progress, or level up, and get off the beach. Rita has previously been in the same boat, but lost the ability he’s now cursed with.  She tells him “Come find me when you wake up,” and trains him, ruthlessly setting the reset button when he fouls up in the training dojo, with a bullet to the head.

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Director Doug Liman further stretches himself here, showing he’s adept at many different genres (Swingers, The Bourne Identity, Mr & Mrs Smith, er, Jumper). Together with writers Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Buttersworth, they have done a sterling job in adapting Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel, All You Need Is Kill (a far better title than Edge of Tomorrow – that could either be a sappy romantic drama or thriller – The Day After Yesterday, anyone?!) What could have been an average execution is instead, combined with Cruise letting go, prepared to subvert his action man image, and the Blunt instrument embodied by his co-star, a surprisingly funny, engrossing, visually spectacular and brilliantly paced adventure: one of the best Hollywood action films for some time. I doubt there has been a time travel concept that has satisfied as much since Back To The Future – it’s clear to follow, yet still full of surprises.

Great fun is to be had watching the initially inept Cage flounder at first, stumbling along in his deliberately goofy-looking exo-suit, while ground pounders march in unison around him. “There’s something wrong with your suit,” a grunt mocks him. “There’s a dead man inside it!” Little does he know. Cage gradually becomes a seasoned warrior, using his future / past knowledge to gain trust, evade PT, train with Rita and abandon attempts to save his squad, focusing on the end goal – wiping out the alien “brain” and saving everyone, if possible.

The Normandy beach assault, seen multiple times through fresh eyes, is stunning and chock full of Looney Tunes humour that progresses plot at all times (watch out for that drop ship!) The supporting cast are great too. Cage’s Groundhog Squad and drill instructor Bill Paxton are a nod to Aliens of course, but they all have their own quirks. Paxton’s droll delivery comments on Cage’s development – “Battle is a true redeemer. Tomorrow morning you will be baptised. Born again.” The film shares the gleeful destruction of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers, but hasn’t time for its satirical edge; it’s not that kind of film.

It’s great to see a military in a future war film that is truly international. The Whitehall and wider London settings are unique in a film of this nature – seeing a British Corporal meet Cage off a chopper, it’s easy to imagine this as a massive budget version of Doctor Who, with UNIT taking on the Mimics, and another time traveller intervening…

Emily Blunt is superb – not Cage’s equal, or love interest, but big chopper wielding, tough as nails mentor. A clever move is to later not let the audience or Rita in on how many days she and Cage have relived, what he knows, and what she doesn’t yet. While for the most part the final act is a more serious, complete the mission set-up, it is still important from a character development point of view. Cage hasn’t just become a better warrior, he’s become a better person – live, grow, die, repeat.

 

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