Reviews

Published: Saturday May 31, 2014 MYT 11:25:44 AM
Updated: Saturday May 31, 2014 MYT 11:25:44 AM

Edge of Tomorrow

  • Starring : Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Jonas Armstrong
  • Director : Doug Liman
  • Release Date : 29 May 2014

Review

Groundhog slay

MAYBE you’re a hater, and the thought of seeing Tom Cruise getting slain on the battlefield (and sometimes off it) over and over again strongly appeals to you.

Ah, but then, it’s a PG-13 movie, so gory death scenes are absent.

Thwarted in your desire to see the actor slain in various gruesome ways (you might want to consider medication), you focus instead on the fact that hey, this is actually quite a clever, well-paced, engagingly performed and imaginatively conceived little – no, BIG – sci-fi action flick.

Edge Of Tomorrow is based on a really butt-kickingly good 2004 novel entitled All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka; it was recently adapted into a manga, then a US graphic novel, and now this movie.

A number of changes have been made to the story, as is the case with all book-to-film adaptations. Perhaps the biggest of these is that central character Keiji Kuriya, a private in the “United Defense Force”, is now Major William Cage, and he’s played by Tom Cruise. At least they got the “Cage” part right (go read the book!).

Gear of war: 'This multi-directional shoulder-mounted line-of-sight-targeting rocket launcher is really nifty - and to think, the designer originally envisioned it as an automated back-scratcher.'
Gear of war: ‘This multi-directional shoulder-mounted line-of-sight-targeting rocket launcher is really nifty – and to think, the designer originally envisioned it as an automated back-scratcher.’

The action has also shifted from Japan to Europe, where humanity is embroiled in a massive war of resistance against alien invaders that have almost overrun the continent. Cage is a PR man, winning the hearts and minds of the world by convincing them that the United Defense Force’s new battle-exoskeleton-equipped soldiers actually have a chance of beating the invaders.

For some odd reason, the non-combatant officer gets embedded into a front-line unit. As if to firmly cement the film’s alien-fighting credentials, the master sergeant of Cage’s squad is played by a scene-stealing Bill Paxton, giving us a glimpse of what might have happened if Private Hudson from Aliens had indeed managed to stow that sh*t and grow a sense of responsibility.

Anyway, in spite of (or more likely because of) his protests, Cage gets dropped into the thick of battle. It’s the Allied invasion of France all over again, as mankind throws everything into the assault, and Cage dies within a few minutes of hitting the beach.

Only to wake up and re-live the whole of his last day on Earth over and over again, learning a little more each time, and eventually trying to break the routine.

The key to that is possibly Rita Vrataski (a steel-jawed Emily Blunt, her character largely intact from the book – down to the “inspiring” nickname), a decorated war veteran who seems to know something about what Cage is going through.

The trick, however, is convincing everyone else that he’s not a raving lunatic whose uncanny knowledge of future events may mark him as a traitor, even.

And the neat trick that director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and his writers (including The Usual Suspects’ Christopher McQuarrie) have pulled off here is to make all this time-loop tomfoolery not only compelling and accessible to all audiences (as opposed to just sci-fi aficionados), but funny as heck on many occasions.

'Somehow, I didn't quite picture this when the sergeant said we'd be going on a live fire exercise.'
‘Somehow, I didn’t quite picture this when the sergeant said we’d be going on a live fire exercise.’

Yes, in addition to flashing his teeth and winking at the camera, Cruise shows some excellent comic timing here and even screams like a girl a couple of times to drive home the point that machismo is usually the first casualty of sudden, painful movie death.

While reading the book just last month did rob me of enjoying some of the surprising developments in the story, there’s enough variation from the source material to keep things fresh.

Since only Cage is re-living events, and everything is new for everyone else, the filmmakers also mess with the audience a little, too – leaving us guessing, at times, if we are watching a scene unfolding for the first time – or if it has all happened before, and Cage is just reliving it a little differently now.

If I were writing home about this film, though, I would include a truckload of crying-face emojis over the cop-out ending.

It not only runs contrary to the (novel’s) protagonist’s most painful and maturing experience of the war, but is also tantamount to a betrayal of our investment in the characters. First Oblivion, and now this. I’m starting to see a pattern ....

Aside from this one glaringly false note, Edge Of Tomorrow does a great job of keeping us enthralled the rest of the time.

The war scenes are gritty and startling, and the gradual and very one-sided bond that starts to form between Cage and Vrataski is as sweet as can be in such dire circumstances, kind of a 50 First Datesmotivated by that most basic of instincts, survival of self and species.


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