At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Edge of Tomorrow “2014”

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Edge of Tomorrow “2014”

MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Sci-Fi Action/Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Charlotte Riley, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic, Masayoshi Haneda, Madeleine Mantock/Runtime: 113 minutes

I feel it should be said that it really doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that a brilliant slice of cinema like the one I am reviewing today, 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow, would have set the box office ablaze and just in the U.S. made its budget back with ease. Not only that, but with its intriguing narrative, skilled helmer and cast, riveting action beats, phenomenal visual effects, a wonderful sense of humor, and the love of the majority of the film reviewing community, this slice of cinema should have been the film to beat for weeks and weeks after its debut on June 6th of 2014. Of course the key words there are should have. I say that because this seemingly guarantee of success was also before Tom Cruise did not possess the meteoric level of bankability he had (and has slowly reacquired a fair amount of), before movies like this were literally all over the place, and before the summer movie season got filled to the brim with big budget spectacle films. Suffice it to say that had this movie shown up in a slower month or just opened later in the summer, it’s possible this slice of cinema might have made more money than it did and truth be told that should have been the case. This is because while Edge of Tomorrow might not be the best slice of cinema to come out of 2014, it is easily one of the most entertaining. Indeed there aren’t as many slices of cinema that proved to be as sly, engaging, and just plain enjoyable as this and even fewer slices of cinema in its distinct genre that unfolded with such assertive skill whilst also gifting audiences with not only terrific work behind the camera, but also in front of the camera as well. Suffice it to say that it might have its flaws, but Edge of Tomorrow is one slice of cinema that is most definitely worth seeking out and watching ASAP.

The plot is as follows: An adaptation of a Japanese novel called All You Need is Kill, the slice of cinema that is Edge of Tomorrow gets underway as we are dropped into a version of our world that is under attack from a group of extraterrestrials called Mimics and introduces us to a guy by the name of Major William “Bill” Cage. A man who, we quickly pick up on, is a mega-watt smile equipped sniveling public affairs officer in the military coalition that, in the light of the Mimics invasion, is in charge of trying to take Earth back from the alien invaders. In other words: this is a guy who is very clearly meant to be a poster boy of sorts and in no way shape, form, or fashion a guy who is meant to see combat. As a result, this might explain why our boy wonder not only attempts to weasel his way out when his superior, a General Brigham, assigns him to go to the front line and cover an upcoming military offensive, but also why the aforementioned superior then chooses to have him detained and demoted as punishment for his insubordination. Suffice it to say that despite our hero passionately trying to tell his new good ol’ country bumpkin of a commanding officer that a mistake must have been made it’s fairly safe to say that he may very well be screwed. We soon see that our hero is not only placed in a new unit, but also placed into a huge mech suit he finds quite laborious to move around that is also equipped with grade-A weaponry that he hasn’t the faintest idea to work and then in seemingly no time at all finds himself and his unit leaving London and roughly sent overseas to France to take part in a full-on human vs. Mimic battle. Suffice it to say that what follows can best be described as no more and no less than a visceral and ruthless massacre through and through. Indeed not only is everyone in Cage’s new unit fairly quickly dispatched with due to being highly outnumbered, but even a legendary warrior by the name of Rita Vrataski finds herself being tragically cut down in the bloodbath and chaos. Of course, while all of this is going on we see that our hero is able to annihilate a fairly grotesque and large Mimic only to quickly die after the alien’s extremely acidic blood splashes all over his face (ouch). Now normally, this would be the point in the movie where it comes to an end and the credits begin to roll, but that’s not exactly the case in this. A fact we soon come to see when, to his shock, our hero wakes up and sees that this day straight from heck has begun again and we soon see our hero attempt again to weasel out of taking part, be detained, dropped into the heat of combat, and then desperately attempt to survive the chaos and mayhem in the war zone as long as he can and so it goes over and over again. In short: our hero can now, courtesy of the alien’s blood entering his body, turn back time when he dies which in turn then gives him another opportunity to change things for the better. Of course, it should come as no surprise to learn that it is going to take quite a fair amount of replays on our hero’s part if he wishes to figure out how to kick some serious butt in this distinct cinematic equivalent to a videogame. A cinematic videogame equivalent incidentally where dying most assuredly does hurt a whole heck of a lot more than any death seen in a Grand Theft Auto game though is exactly the thing that he must do if he wants even a hope and prayer of becoming tough enough to make it to the end and take back no more and no less a prize than mankind’s continued existence on this planet from the alien menace…

Now it should be said right off the bat that this slice of cinema is the blessed recipient of a screenplay penned by the brilliant scribe/ recent helmer of the last few Mission Impossible films Christopher McQuarrie, who most assuredly has shown that he can write a slice of cinema that really bends the mind and by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, who collaborated with this film’s helmer on his 2010 spy thriller Fair Game. Indeed this dynamic trio have managed to do a wonderful job of figuring out how to make sure this slice of cinema is by no means a monotone snooze fest. As a result we see that, with the aid of some fantastically quick and well thought out work from the editing department, the creative team is able to regale us with this narrative in such a way that it manages to change what literally must feel like a waking nightmare for our intrepid hero into a light, amusing, and continuously compelling cinematic outing. Yet even though this slice of cinema is engaging throughout it’s not until we see Cage, having “died” multiple times by this point, decide to team up with Rita in order to become a better warrior, that we see the movie really start to soar courtesy of the film finally being able to put a showcase on the fairly oddball rules behind what is going on whilst also permitting Cage and Rita to not only kick some serious alien butt, but also get to know each other better as they go further and further each reset in their attempts to finally save mankind once and for all. Suffice it to say that yes Groundhog Day is most definitely a cinematic influence, but I also feel another influence would definitely be both 2011’s Source Code with Jake Gyllenhaal and also the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from back in the day respectively. Now if there is a weak link to be found in the structure of this film, it’s the fact that the film does to some degree start to show hints of a love story between Cage and Rita, but thankfully this film’s helmer manages to operate it with a wonderfully delicate touch that also branches out to everything else in the film as well. Also I am sure that a few of the final twists and turns in this slice of cinema are likely to throw more than just one or two of you out there for a curve, but I am hoping by that point, this slice of cinema has garnered enough in the way of leniency that I don’t think it’ll be that annoying to you….hopefully. Finally, it should also be said that the production design in this slice of cinema is absolutely fantastic right down to the designs of both the mech suit Cage and his fellow soldiers wear into combat and the Mimic aliens which creatively look like giant crabs that were dunked in some serious toxic waste respectively. Suffice it to say that every single department behind the camera are all operating at the peak of their creative powers and the results are pure magic.

Now in terms of the performances I feel it should be said right off the bat before I go any further: Tom Cruise is absolutely fantastic in this film. Indeed in the moments of this with action beats, we see that no matter how old this guy claims he’s getting he is still on point just as much as ever and as a result we see that he *surprise surprise* manages to show yet again that he is easily one of cinema’s more riveting as well as credible icons in the realm of the action genre. At the same time though, the arena where this slice of cinema manages to garner a pretty hefty amount of its fun mileage is fairly early on where we see our main character acting like a scaredy-cat who has no qualms whatsoever about fleeing the scene or even threating his superiors in order to avoid gambling with his life in combat. Indeed make no mistake this man is aware that he is by no means a hero nor does he even have any aspirations to be anything close to one, but under the insane circumstances he finds himself embroiled in, he finds that he must become one however reluctantly as he may feel about it. Suffice it to say that it might be a bit odd to see the usually gung-ho and ready for action Tom Cruise play such a cowardly lion type, but he manages to play it so brilliantly that it really does make his character’s narrative trajectory let alone the circumstances he gets stuck in all the more riveting. As a result, I think I can safely say that this slice of cinema does a brilliant job of reminding us just how skilled of a performer Tom Cruise really truly is. By that I mean here is a guy who during the more solemn moments is able to be give us the necessary gravitas, but who also knows how to make his megawatt smile shine where it needs to and also kick some serious alien butt in this slice of cinema’s truly fantastic collection of sci-fi action beats. Yet perhaps the most delightful surprise of all that this performance has going for it is the fact that it allows Tom Cruise to flex some serious comedy muscle here and show that he actually can be really funny with the right material. I mean I know how dark it may sound if I tell you that the vast majority of the times he dies in this will get at the very least a chuckle out of you, but the film’s creative team behind the camera do a brilliant job at utilizing a fairly quick cut from Tom about to bite the dust in some manner only to wind up back at his first day of training with the unit he is “assigned” to with a swiftness that just makes you laugh just as the sheer absurdity of it all. With all of that being said however, I should also point out that the work done by Cruise in this film is not the only performance worthy of praise. This starts with Emily Blunt who is absolutely brilliant and downright ferocious in the role of legendary warrior Vrataski and who I can see becoming as iconic to the sci-fi genre as Sarah Connor or Ripley. Yet lest you think this bad to the bone warrior woman is all gun and no characterization behind it, we see Blunt do a wonderful job at providing her with emotion and humanity in a way that only enhances the character rather than detracts from who she is in any way. Suffice it to say that when you also factor in wonderful efforts from Bill Paxton as the most delightfully country-fried soldier since Colonel Sanders and Brendan Gleeson as the slightly duplicitous General Brigham to name but a few of the performers in this, you get a cast that is not only aware of the kind of movie they are in, but completely onboard with giving it their best as well.

All in all for all of you out there who have been twiddling your thumbs and waiting desperately to see a slice of cinema that feels very much like the film version of not just a sci-fi game like Halo, but also the “time honored” (read: absolutely hair-pulling and just plain infuriating) concept in video games where you are forced to go back to the beginning of a level if you die then here is the movie you have been waiting for. With that in mind though, I must confess I didn’t think in a million years it would be Tom Cruise of all people to bring it to you. Sarcastic observations aside, I feel that even though it manages to possess a fairly weird and quirky title that I definitely think would function a heck of a lot better if it was adorning the hardback cover of a sci-fi novel from the 1970s rather than a slice of cinema from 2014, there is no denying that Edge of Tomorrow is a genuinely fun and well-done time to be had. I mean don’t get me wrong dear reader: making a slice of cinema that deals with the concept of time travel can be a fairly difficult cinematic tightrope to traverse because of how confusing things can get in trying to figure out both where the characters are in time to say nothing of determining what ramifications (if any) their actions may have in their time period. Thankfully, this slice of cinema is one that manages to utilize the iconic and time-honored sci-fi concept of going through time in order to fix either the past or future in a wonderfully non confusing and comfortable manner that feels right at home with such films as the vastly underrated Jake Gyllenhaal-starrer Source Code from 2011 and of course the 1993 Bill Murray masterpiece Groundhog Day respectively. Suffice it to say that Edge of Tomorrow is not only wonderfully made and terrifically performed, but it is also a beautiful example of sci-fi cinema at its finest that manages to bring together a truly creative plot, a collection of solid performances, incredible work from the departments behind the camera, a wonderfully steady stream of gallows humor that will leave you chuckling, and truly riveting action beats that will most assuredly have you on the edge of your seat in the best way possible. Thus definitely give this slice of cinema a chance. I promise you will not regret it. On a scale of 1-5 I give Edge of Tomorrow “2014” a solid 4 out of 5.