The curious case of.. Edge of Tomorrow

by Grant Cronin

People recoil at the idea of watching a Tom Cruise film nowadays but if you forget about his er.. colourful behaviour and personal life, there are a few gems he has been involved with recently (the most recent Mission Possible instalment wiped the floor with Spectre). I am going ahead and saying it, Edge of Tomorrow is an underrated film that was woefully marketed and had no idea what it was. That said, I’m not going to spend the rest of this post heralding the film as a complete disaster; it made a profitreviews from critics were largely positive and we got an enjoyable, coherent and conceptual film. The problem is, when I ask people about this film they largely have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. In my humble opinion, for an audience that cries for original ideas from Hollywood, more eyes should have seen this, more eyes should see this. I now see this as another example of The Nice Guys Paradox. Albeit, based upon a novel, this was a fresh, inventive Hollywood blockbuster that deserves more fans.

The film, directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Looper) and adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2004 science fiction novel All You Need Is Kill, picks up with Bill Cage (Tom Cruise) a former advertising executive turned Public Relations officer for the United Defence Force (UDF) – an alliance of NATO forces that ally when an extraterrestrial race known as the Mimics invade continental Europe. Cage, with zero combat experience, is forced into being a part of a massive assault on France by the UDF which attempts to take back Europe from the Mimics. Cage teams up with UDF hero, propaganda tool and gifted killer Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) to seek a way of beating back the extraterrestrial threat. Standard science fiction genre plot, right? Right. The uniqueness of this film comes from its use of a Groundhog Day-inspired time loop. When Cage dies, he is reset. When he dies he his taken back to the day before the invasion of France. Watching this, Groundhog Day will be your first point of reference but there could be a danger of selling the rest of the film short by doing this. As Matt Zoller Seitz wrote, the work of Liman here is also comparable to the hellish European dystopia envisaged in Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men.

A bone of contention stems from the handling of this movie in regards to its title. You would think this would be one of the more easier things to nail down during the process of making a film, think again. The film is known by as many as three names: Edge of Tomorrow, Live. Die. Repeat., and after the aforementioned novel the film is based on, All You Need Is Kill. Edge of Tomorrow was the title that won out after the original title All You Need Is Kill was deemed too negative. To confuse matters even further the film was again rebranded Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow for its home video release. No wonder the box office return was underwhelming.

The entire film plays like a video game and is the best video-game movie that is not actually a video-game movie. This is intentional from Liman and would be wrong not to explore this in the film adaptation as it is in the very DNA of the source material. With the constant re-spawning and doing better, going further after each ‘Game Over’, Cage as a lead character is more comparable to a protagonist in the Call of Duty franchise than any science fiction or war film. This concept drives the film and as a plot device it is used perfectly; as an audience we are allowed to enjoy the progression of Cage and Vrataski working in tandem and learning how to defeat the Mimics without the threat of outright death. It shouldn’t work in a film, the stakes are still there but you’re invested and right there along for the journey. Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton and Noah Taylor are all serviceable in their supporting roles but make no doubt about it – this is film centred around Cruise and Blunt.

Edge of Tomorrow is far from perfect; Cruise and Blunt have little chemistry, the romantic subplot is unnecessary, and it underestimates the audience’s ability to understand what is going on. However, the end result of Edge of Tomorrow is something surprising fresh and relentless. Blunt is superb and announces herself here as a true action star (Bond, Jane Bond – anyone?) as the imperious Vrataski and Cruise is used well, and on occasion is surprisingly funny. You even forget this is another Tom-Cruise-saves-the-world vehicle like tedious Oblivion. Whereas a film like Snowpiercer avoids tropes and cliches, Edge of Tomorrow embraces them and twists them into an inventive plot. We’ve seen aliens and time-loops before. Arguably not together but definitely not like this. Don’t let your Tom Cruise phobia put you off – this is worth your time.

Have you seen Edge of Tomorrow/Live. Die. Repeat./All You Need Is Kill? What did you think? Thanks for reading and comment below!

Follow me on Twitter @grant_cronin

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