Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow



Aliens, man. They're always invading. Each time they do we get to rethink global warfare, revamp the mechanized suits, unite with our enemies, and shoot shit up until we save what's left of our blown apart planet. With a little bit of vision, common people become heroes.  Usually it's because they crack the code that allows them to know exactly where to find that one thing, the one hub or queen or central nervous system that will destroy the conquering race with a single nuke.  It's a common enough sci-fi trope, and one Edge of Tomorrow doesn't shy away from.  On the outside, the stuff Edge is made from is as trite as it comes. Tom Cruise is William Cage, a military PR guy whose days recruiting for an alien war are brought swiftly to a close when he's thrown into the arena himself.  He's a coward, a klutz, and so out of his element he can't turn the safety off his arm cannons.  All the summer blockbuster elements fall in line: fish out of water, everyday heroes, alien warfare, a distant --but achievable-- goal, a hunt for a mysterious object.  Then, suddenly, Edge of Tomorrow goes rogue.      

The big element separating this film from so many others is that its structure binds it to one specific film: Groundhog Day.  Everyone is quick to say Edge is Groundhog Day along futuristic front lines, and with minimal rhyme or reason, William Cage repeats the same horrific day over and over again. He fights, he fails. He fights a little harder, he gets a little further. He picks up a new piece of information, he uses it the next time. William Cage dies. William Cage dies. William Cage dies.  At some point, he meets the military's best and brightest star, the "Angel of Verdun" (Emily Blunt), a battlefront heroine who knows a little something about Cage's constant resetting.  William Cage dies on repeat until his training is complete, and each twist presents itself as a new obstacle. Each time he gets a little further, there's no telling where something will go wrong. The result is something like the experience of playing a video game without the slog of the actual game,  and the beauty is in the direction.  Far from letting the repetitive mishaps rule over the action, Doug Liman succeeds in maintaining the film's rapid pace and placing the ellipses at exactly the right moments.  It's a kind of exact science, a math formula of using just the right cuts to imply just the right actions so that we follow, understand, and run towards the conclusion even as we hit dead end after dead end.  
It's massively entertaining, impressive in its fluidity, and proves to be just the right role for Cruise. Call it a repetition of its own, but if the Tom Cruise of the last few years is one who plays the top notch hero over and over again, it's here where we remember that there are cases where we appreciate him the more for it.  In the face of lackluster action figure types in Godzilla and Pacific Rim, Cruise plays the everyman type with likable ease, and transitions through his training montage affably. He's the best kind of empty icon, and sits well next to Emily Blunt's full metal bad ass. Between the two of them and the apt editing, Edge of Tomorrow doesn't give the viewer time to think about the loose ends, the stuff that doesn't make sense, or the piss poor fact of its title.  Its plot may not be the smartest, but the delivery is.  There's a wit to the editing, and that alone makes it a refreshing, pleasant surprise.  

2 comments:

  1. I'm really glad this film is getting positive reviews, I miss Tom Cruise in a good movie. I might just try and watch this one while it's still playing!

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    Replies
    1. Yeah, it's surprisingly decent, and interesting in that it really makes you appreciate how well Tom Cruise can work in an action role like this. He does have a certain type of charisma that many just don't.

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