Review of Edge of Tomorrow

It’s been a while since I’ve been satisfied by a science-fiction film that tries a Philip K. Dick-type twist and succeeds (probably the last time was District 9). Tom Cruise’s last sci-fi attempt, Oblivion, was just predictable garbage where you could see the “twist” about ten seconds into the plot. Edge of Tomorrow succeeds by not attempting to fool you with its twist and just getting to it already. Spoiler alert: if you haven’t heard by now, this movie is a sci-fi story that borrows the primary concept from Harold Ramis’ comedy, Groundhog Day (and, boy, do we miss you already Mr. Ramis…Rest in peace, you funny…so funny…brilliant man).

Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Japanese novel, All You Need Is Kill, this on-screen rendition is well-planned and well-paced. It doesn’t waste time with unnecessary detailing…and it senses perfectly when the audience might get frustrated with the repetitive dialogue and scenes. It rarely slows down unnecessarily and attempts to incorporate every piece of dialogue and screen-time into the progression of the story. It’s obvious that Doug Liman thoroughly studied Groundhog Day in order to make Edge of Tomorrow work as well as it did.

The time-travel premise works well enough without generating too many conflicts. A viewer can properly enjoy the well-examined plot without having to improperly suspend disbelief to wrap one’s head around anomalies or unresolved plot elements (unlike X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is just littered with unanswered questions and untied knots). I was mostly skeptical about the idea of blood transfusions messing the whole thing up, but it’s small potatoes once you realize that super-powers really don’t make much sense—when you mix scientific human physiology with reasonable story exposition—in the first place.

The movie is well-cast, and the performances are tight. If you enjoy Tom Cruise, you will be relieved that he has returned to the same action-hero greatness he displayed in War of the Worlds and Minority Report; if you have a problem with Tom Cruise, you will enjoy how he is constantly beat up in this movie. Brendan Gleeson plays a credible Army general that could have easily been a stock role. Emily Blunt is magnificent as Cruise’s action partner and convinces viewers that she is indeed a “full metal bitch.” There is an expected romantic element between Cruise and Blunt, but it never overrides the greater action plot to the point of eye-rolling…

…and Bill Paxton…as a card-carrying member of the Paxton fan club, I am happy to report that Paxton steals quite a few scenes with his enthusiasm-for-military-life-is-an-understatement role as a Kentucky-born Army Master Sergeant…most of the laughs I got from this film come from Paxton’s wonderful ability to play this over-the-top character. Hollywood! Pay attention and give Bill Paxton more love. He’s a valuable character actor. James Cameron can’t be the only one who understands Paxton’s range.

The special effects work well enough in this movie. The movie doesn’t rely on special effects as much as other sci-fi efforts…and it doesn’t need to do so because of the tight direction and well-written script. We have big, clunky exo-skeletons, which seem to have become the norm. We have alien creatures with long, prehensile tendrils that move quicker than the eye can follow…also somewhat generic. When there is a mob of alien creatures, we have the requisite ominous clouds of dust and smoke, with glimpses of the sheer number, bearing down on the actors (though, the alien movement in the river was well-done and somewhat new). There were a few times when the soldiers jumped from their hover-plane that didn’t exactly follow the laws of physics and gravity (and a helicopter scene), but the visual effects did what needed to be done. The main goal of this movie was to keep our attention with the plot, not have the visual effects steal the show and sell tickets (think Transformers…here’s hoping the new one will have some semblance of a good story…probably not if Michael Bay is still at the helm).

On a strange note, there are some comparisons in this movie to be made in connection with some current news stories. This movie was released on the seventieth anniversary of D-Day. This was probably intentional, as there are obvious connections to be made to the historic beachfront assault on the shores of France. However, I highly doubt the movie producers could have predicted the release of Bowe Bergdahl, and I couldn’t help but think of Bergdahl when the first two explanatory scenes with Cruise’s character played out…just weird how coincidental it is with the proximity of Bergdahl’s prisoner exchange and the release of this movie.

There are some clichés in this film; in fact, the finale might be the weakest part of the script BECAUSE it is so cliché. It is an appropriate conclusion, however, and it ends a satisfactory summer movie experience. Edge of Tomorrow is yet another Doug Liman success.

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