Film Review: Edge of Tomorrow (USA, 2014)

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You know those tag lines they use to promote films? Well the tag line for Edge Of Tomorrow is “Live. Die. Repeat” and this movie does exactly what it says on the tin. Not to mention throw tons of sci-fi action in your face and manages to deliver an interesting story that stays focused and on point.

First thing’s first, this film is an adaptation/based on a Japanese graphic novel titled ‘All You Need Is Kill’ by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. I haven’t read it, but after seeing the film I really want to go read it now. The basic premise is that reluctant soldier Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) who has never seen combat gets recruited to fight in an impossible war against an alien race called ‘Mimics’ and he ends up stuck in a time loop reliving his last day repeatedly. Along the way he meets Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) a Special Forces soldier who also had the same experience happen to her but “lost” the ability to time loop. As each day is relived he manages to hone his skills as a fighter and he and Vrataski learn more in order to defeat the alien race. As the film progresses it then feels more like a “choose your own adventure” style where Cage has to keep trying different scenarios to progress further. Only when he manages to find and defeat the ‘Omega’ the hive mind controlling all the Mimics will he succeed.

There are plenty of movies we’ve seen previously that utilise this ‘time loop’ gimmick, think Groundhog Day or The Butterfly Effect or Source Code. Unlike those films where whenever an element is changed it causes an alternate reality, with Edge of Tomorrow the focus is about our protagonist gaining knowledge each time to better his circumstances in the next round. Initially I had reservations about how they would successfully execute the time loops, whether we would have to endure a multiple number of the same sequences in order to see the plot move forward. It does take a couple of turns for it to really get moving but once it cranks into gear we see certain shots edited down for pacing and we essentially skip scenes we’ve already visited. The scriptwriters also use subtle hints in the dialogue to indicate that something’s been done before, that Cage has already been there. There’s no specific or direct indication on how many times he’s died and looped his way around, initially we see about 8 specific deaths but thankfully the script ditches that in favour of focusing on character growth and moving the plot forward.

The attention remains almost solely on Cage too, the film is light on character numbers, since we see the same ones over and over. So the character development remains almost entirely his in the film. We see him shifting through various emotional phases, from cocky self-assured media man, to terrified soldier to confused, apathetic and hopeless and then determined to win at all costs and willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good. Vrataski has some small expansion of character as her interactions with Cage become more frequent and dire, but for the most part she remains the “full metal bitch” and mostly aloof and hardened. Both Cruise and Blunt are convincing as both their characters. Naysayers be damned, I’ve always thought Cruise is a great actor and have enjoyed almost all of his work. Blunt also shows how talented an actress she is by extending her range even more with this sci-fi action film to add to her filmography credits.

The visual design of the film particularly the costumes of the metal combat suits and the aliens themselves are not entirely unique but they don’t feel like a rip off of other films either. The combat suits of Edge Of Tomorrow are designed to be like a proper exoskeleton around the person’s body. Less bulky than the Power Loader of Aliens and smaller than the weapon enhanced suits in The Matrix Reloaded or Avatar. We still get to see enough of the details like the cogs and gears and moving parts to make them seem like a feasible concept in weaponry.

The ‘Mimics’ of the film are a more unique design, and look nothing like the original Japanese versions in the graphic novel. They seem to have both the ability to travel underground and on land, they initially appear to be all tentacle-like but once we’re given more full body shots they even look like dog-creatures, and texturally their body resembles vines that are constantly writhing and moving. They’re genuinely terrifying in that they’re an unknown entity that takes a lot of firepower to kill. We’re not given any sort of backstory for why they appear, or where they’re from. I guess we’re given the opportunity to make that up for ourselves.

There are some bits of the film that are a little disappointing, the fact that the focus remains fixed almost entirely on Cage and Vrataski leaves little room for anyone else. Bill Paxton’s Master Sargeant Farrell is great in the few repeated scenes we see of him, whilst two Aussies, Kick Gurry and Noah Taylor both get some moments in the sun but again not enough to make a real impact, they’re merely there to add a little character colour. Also the wibbly wobbly timey wimey bit at the end (and this is me attempting to not spoil it) felt a bit like a scapegoat and a bit of a cliché Hollywood ending.

However the film manages to stay on point, it insists on remaining targeted on the story and rarely deviates from the over-arching goal. There are no subplots to distract from the end game and Doug Liman’s direction manages to keep it all on track. Some of the death sequences are a little sketch comedy and add a bit of fun to what could be a dark and depressing notion of constantly dying over and over. The action sequences are intense and rapid-fire, it’s visually a lot to take in but if you can keep up with the pace it’s worth it.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time: 113 minutes

Edge Of Tomorrow is out in Australia on 5th June 2014 through Roadshow Films.