Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow

Rating

Director
Doug Liman
Screenplay
Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Length
113 min.
Starring
Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson, Bill Paxton, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Kick Gurry, Franz Drameh, Dragomir Mrsic, Charlotte Riley, Masayoshi Haneda, Terence Maynard, Noah Taylor, Lara Pulver
MPAA Rating
PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material

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Review
The future in the hands of an opportunistic coward may not seem like a concept that should work, but Edge of Tomorrow works through typically contrived narrative elements to arrive at a film that may fit incredibly well in the richly diverse history of science fiction on the big screen.

Tom Cruise is the kind of action hero who’s always in control. He plays confident, tough characters that may face uphill battles, but his bravery and certitude mark him as the kind of person who can do anything. As Major William Cage, Cruise has to dial back his competence and athleticism to portray a more genuinely flawed individual than any he’s played since Magnolia. As a member of the U.S. military’s public relations unit, his easy charm and convincing rhetoric have helped sell a war against a powerful invading alien force nicknamed Mimics. Yet, when he’s ordered to join the front in the new invasion, a relentless General (Brendan Gleeson) ensures his cooperation by writing a letter explaining the Major’s attempt to desert and the many lies he’s likely to tell to get himself out of field duty.

Thrust into the heat of battle, Cage finds himself shell shocked and foundering as he struggles to survive against a single-minded entity. When a rare flourescent blue alien called an Alpha kills the Major and mingles its blood with his, the Major awakens in what he thinks is the next morning, but quickly discovers is the same day the invasion occurs and he will die on the battlefield. Trying to figure out what’s happening to him, he forms a bond with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and discovers that her notoriety as a one-woman killing machine is built on the same foundation as Cage’s recurring resurrections. Together, they work on repetitive reincarnations to try and locate and destroy the hive mind of the alien force that will without a doubt erase all life on planet Earth.

Typically, a film relying on more than two screenwriters will struggle to form a cohesive plot that stands up to intense scrutiny. Pairing the once great screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) with the infrequent fraternal collabortors John-Henry and Jez Butterworth have concocted a script that had such potential to flop that its unambiguous success speaks to the strength of the tale. Few scenes are wasted and with a strong cast to enact them, you have a surprisingly cogent narrative that easily supports the heavy bombardment of visual effects.

Director Doug Liman has a colorful history behind the camera. After a trio of strong opening features (Swingers, Go and The Bourne Identity), Liman stuck with more conventional narratives, but infused them with such flair that you can’t help but love them in spite of their weaknesses, Mr. & Mrs. Smith being the perfect example of this.

Science fiction has had a long history of exploring societal unease in ways that were both fun and contemplative. Edge of Tomorrow doesn’t seem to find an obvious thematic wedge issue. The military hiearchy here is treated as inept, unable to recognize the dangers of what’s coming, the inability to recognize truth from psychosis. It has a set way of doing things and any derivation is anathema. It’s a simplistic simulacrum of a slowly-conforming society that’s blending together and stamping out uniqueness for the sake of simplicity and control. Only when people think beyond what they know do they have the capability of overcoming threats to their livelihoods.

To that extent, Edge of Tomorrow can fit into the sci-fi traditions while providing an incredibly engaging experience. Cruise may have been burdened with a string of artistic and generic failures, but here he’s back at true form finding a performance and a subject that’s as involving as his action pinnacle in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report.

Spoiler Discussion
For time travel films, it’s hard not to find some logical loophole to the events that take place in the story. For example, a film like Looper, creates a situation where the events that are “fixed” would have prevented anyone from going back in time in the first place creating a paradox that is almost impossible to explain away. Looper had a throw-away line between past and future selves that dismissed the whole concept of paradox, but which provided nothing to alleviate concerns of frustrated audiences.

Edge of Tomorrow never tries to explain its potential paradox, allowing the audience to form its own conclusions. It’s a confusing ending where Major Cage awakens not on the naval base where he’d re-started so many times, but on the helicopter that brought him to the General’s headquarters where all of the events transpired. It’s explained that the Mimics all died suddenly and so the new invasion would never have to take place, thus saving Major Cage and the crew that ended up sacrificing themselves so the Omega, the overriding presence of the hive mind, could be destroyed.

A couple of potential explanations have arisen, but there’s one I’ve seen that most handily explains the finale without relying on logical fallacy. It goes that the Omega must exist outside of the standard space-time continuum in order to enact the type of wide-ranging, resetting that takes place in the film. As such, when Cruise, who is ostensibly dying at the climax, has his blood comingled with that of the Omega, he is able to reset time back to his last wake-up point. However, since the Omega’s origin was at the beginning of the events, before Cruise is even brought to London and thus its death will reset to at least that juncture, the subsequent events could have taken place and thus Cruise is never Shanghaied by the General and awakens at the previous juncture, on the helicopter as he’s arriving in London.

This ending still has wiggle room to create doubt, but like the superb use of time travel in Star Trek: First Contact, the logical (as logical as a story about time travel can be) explanation feels more genuine and credible as a result. In First Contact, Captain Picard and crew are caught in a temporal wake as the Borg Sphere is heading back to Earth’s past, thus they are preserved from the effects of the Borg Sphere’s influence. This out-of-timeflow narrative explanation not only worked for First Contact, but provides the foundation for why a similar explanation would work so effectively in Edge of Tomorrow.

Oscar Prospects
Potentials: Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects
Review Written
July 17, 2014

1 Comment

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  1. could be the best sci fi film I have ever seen.

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