Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of TomorrowA review by Nalini Haynes
  • Director:  Doug Liman
  • Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (screenplay); Hiroshi Sakurazaka (novel “All You Need Is Kill”)
  • Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
  • Watch this if you’d like to watch Russel Howcroft from the Gruen Transfer getting stuck in a Japanese-style science fiction Gallipoli or Saving Private Ryan (but not as gory) on Groundhog Day; also Pacific Rim

Major Cage (Tom Cruise) walks into General Brigham’s (Brendan Gleeson aka Mad-eye Moody from Harry Potter) office. The general plans to send Cage to the front lines where humanity has united to fight aliens. Cage’s instructions are to take live footage of heroic deeds, selling the war effort to civilians. Cage flashes his too-white teeth, explaining that he’s a depraved coward who will do anything – including stooping to blackmail – to avoid supporting the war effort at such close range. The general has Cage arrested, drugged and shipped off to the warfront as a private attempted-deserter.

It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Cage wakes up, groggy, to be barked at by a passing officer. He’s handed around, abused, mocked and set up to die on the battlefield without even knowing how to release the safety on his weapon.

Surprisingly (not), he dies.

Then Cage wakes back up, just after he arrived on the warfront.

Time repeats.

Cage tries to do things differently. Being a slow learner, he keeps dying.

Eventually Cage meets the Full Metal Bitch, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a woman renowned for taking out 100 mimics (alien drones like the squids in the Matrix) in one day of fighting. Vrataski trains Cage to fight. Together they try to win the war.

Edge of Tomorrow follows in Pacific Rim’s footsteps with humans wearing mechanical exoskeletons with BFGs (big fucking guns) and the occasional sword to take out mechanical-squid-like alien Kaiju called Mimics.

Cage is an utter asshat who, when thrown into a warzone, evokes sympathy. Humor threads through the movie; although not as comedic as Die Hard (‘now I have a machine gun, ho, ho, ho’) but amusing and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny regardless. This humor is a counterpoint to the otherwise intense action scenes, encouraging emotional investment in spite of shallow characters facing insurmountable odds.

Edge of Tomorrow fails the Bechdel Test, a simple gender-bias test, and yet female characters are not objectified. Vrataski is introduced as a powerful woman whose one goal is to kill the aliens. When Cage finds Vrataski in the training room, she’s doing yoga in a relatively modest outfit emphasising her muscular biceps and shoulders. We don’t see cleavage. Although Vrataski becomes Cage’s love interest, her eyes are always on her prize – victory for humanity.

One of the few other female characters, Nance (Charlotte Riley), is also a capable woman in spite of being assigned to J-squad, the loser squad into which Cage is pressganged. The only ‘boobs’ we see are well-developed pecs and six-packs on ripped male bodies in the barracks.

Unlike Independence Day and similar movies, Edge of Tomorrow gives the alien entity devious intelligence. Hope for humanity stems, not from humanity’s superiority, but from a ‘bug’ that cross-wired a human to an alien, giving advantage in knowledge.

There are plot-holes; what SF movie doesn’t have holes? Apart from the time-travel-reset thing (did you notice the time-controlling alien is BLUE?) there’s a gizmo that was built on the basis of WHAT knowledge and HOW did they get their knowledge and… But it’s fast-paced, blink and you might miss the holes.

I expected a ’splodey movie; what I got was better than expected.

The 3D was immersive; I flinched and ducked as the life-sized – or larger-than-life (on IMAX’s huge screen, thanks IMAX for tix) – vehicles exploded, sending shrapnel flying towards me. Mimics lunged, sending tentacles out of the screen. At one point someone walked past me (grr) and some of the action on the screen seemed closer than the guy one or two rows in front of me. I highly recommend seeing this movie in 3D because ’SPLODEY MOVIE DONE WELL.

[Spoiler alert]

I have one criticism to make. I will be very careful how I word this. After the climax (which was good and appropriately ’splodey), there are one or two more scenes. When the credits rolled, a few of the guys in the audience exclaimed, ‘Really? REALLY?’ The climax was good. The dénouement, not so much. There’s a saying: you can’t have your cake and eat it too. That’s because once you eat your cake, IT’S GONE, BABY, GONE. The filmmakers tried to avoid the type of ending that sometimes makes movie-goers sad. I suggest they watch the Fault in Our Stars then rework the end. Until then, just pretend the movie ends about 3 minutes before the credits roll.

[Spoiler ends]

Overall, Edge of Tomorrow is a good ’splodey movie. Slightly more intense and slightly less comedic than Pacific Rim with a lot of similar ingredients, I expect Edge of Tomorrow will be a winner at the box office. I highly recommend it as an action movie without much depth but giving more credit for intelligence to aliens than a lot of its genre.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 4/5