“I’m going to tell you a story. At first it’s going to sound ridiculous. But the longer I talk, the more rational it’s going to appear”.
After seeing Doug Liman’s much praised Edge of Tomorrow I came away feeling that its humour was the surprising highlight of the film. I am still not entirely sure whether this speaks volumes for its slight lack of a really gripping and original sci-fi story, or if it is simply an added bonus on top of a fantastically entertaining and well acted summer movie. I will join the majority that seem to be leaning towards the latter, because despite the movie’s paradoxes and predictability that has plagued other time-travel yarns such as Looper, I feel that Edge of Tomorrow is without doubt greater than the sum of its parts.
The film begins by using the always effective media-montage to deliver the back-story, which, in a nutshell, is your run-of-the-mill alien invasion. Although unoriginal as an introduction, it cleverly leaves out direct references to alien appearance and uses instead images of general chaos and WWII style geographic models. This all means a great surprise when you sit alongside Cruise and see the aliens face to face on the battlefield. The alien invaders are ironically called “mimics”, as they may conjure up memories of other recent creatures across the genre. But then again this more often than not is the case in a fairly congested sci-fi arena.
Cruise plays Major Cage, a media hugging combat dodger, essentially a coward, whom is the ideal candidate for the central role, as his character leaves the most room to develop, as a ready-made hero would most likely just follow routine action lines until he eventually saves the day. After being thrown into battle and labelled a deserter, Cruise predictably dies in combat at the hands of an alien called an Alpha, which spills its blood on top of Cruise, giving him the ability to reset time, or more specifically, the day. Cue hilarious montage of Cruise copping it through bullet fire, alien attack and a badly timed combat roll under the wheels of a truck. This is where the film comes into its own, and Bill Paxton is the perfect poker-faced foil for the film’s humour as Master Sergeant Farrell.
Cruise is joined by the sultry Emily Blunt (above), who plays bad-ass, helicopter blade-wielding war hero Rita Vrataski, otherwise known as the ‘full metal bitch’, who has also been gifted Cruise’s ability in the past, another clever way of using characters to dictate the script’s rhythm. They work together with Noah Taylor to find and eliminate the central alien mind, the Omega, which has the ability like Cruise, to reset time and therefore out-manoeuvre the humans in this un-winnable war. Unfortunately, this science-fiction sub plot of killing a central nerve to avoid plot complication has in recent times become slightly overused to the point of movie cliché (Avengers, Independence Day, Phantom Menace etc), leaving me slightly frustrated that the original story could not have been changed to avoid travelling over the same ground.
Thankfully though, the quick witted script, slick editing and inventive cinematography (such as some video-game contemporary FPS angles and cool close-ups of the mecha-suits) gives the film a minty freshness, that mixes well with the gritty and intense camera-work. The action scenes hold together really well, and the whole film feels futuristic, but at same time relatable, in the way that Children of Men is. It is perhaps just a shame that the quality of cast does not pass down from the central group, and the supporting cast that mostly encompasses J-Squad, is rather just a mish-mash to cultural stereotypes. But perhaps that is the difference between the truly epic science-fiction of Aliens, and the entertaining, clever, but ultimately unremarkable Edge of Tomorrow.
Shapstik Verdict: Despite the absence of some key elements to reach greatness, the whole thing comes together really well, and fans of Cruise’s humour will have great fun watching the variation and inventiveness of his multiple deaths. Edge of Tomorrow’s great acting, sharp editing and strong script, leaves it with a sheen that allows the whole affair to glitter a little bit more than it probably deserves. 7/10