"Edge of Tomorrow" is a sci-fi film that's based on the Japanese teen novel, "All You Need Is Kill." The title was changed to avoid any negative connotations that the word "kill" would've invoked. The basic premise is the same between both forms of media: There's an alien invasion, and the protagonist relives the same day again and again, each time getting one step closer to defeating the alien threat.
When we first meet Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), he's a smug officer whose only function is media relations for the United Defense Force (UDF). It's what he's good at, since he owned a public relations firm before the alien invasion. By his own admission, he does this so he doesn't have to step foot on the battlefield. It's this attitude that earns him a one-way ticket to the front line.
He dies within minutes, but not before killing a rare blue alien. The death sequence CGI is pretty well done, as if blue acid were quickly burning away his face. He awakens with a start at the military base, and he realizes he's reliving the same day. He spends numerous attempts trying to warn his squadmates and his commanding officer (Bill Paxton), but no one believes him, and he resigns himself to his fate and concentrates on living just a little bit longer each time he "resets." Along the way, he teams up with Rita Vritaski (Emily Blunt), the famed soldier known as the "Full Metal Bitch" who's almost single-handedly responsible for the victory at Verdun, the only human win up to this point.
The best part of the film is the "Groundhog Day" sequences and the variety of ways that Cage meets his demise. They're so good that the rest of the film feels tame by comparison. The expository segments are required to progress the story, but they just don't have the same energetic cadence as the scenes where Cage dies again and again. The second half of the movie moves along at a better pace, after all of the initial setup is out of the way. The later action sequences are another highlight. After he has died hundreds of times, Cage remembers the location of the pitfalls and is able to swiftly traverse the battlefield like a graceful alien killer. Cruise's intensity is perfectly suited to this role. Although Blunt doesn't have a lot of action films under her belt, she's completely believable here as a character who's as tough as Sarah Connor.
That the potentially most confusing mechanic in the film is actually its strongest point is a testament to director Doug Liman. He was the sole screenwriter for "The Usual Suspects," so he knows a thing or two about story details. Liman is also no stranger to action films. He directed the original "Bourne Identity," the only film in the trilogy that didn't utilize the "shaky cam" technique to convey action.
There are a few shortcomings, though. For starters, Brendan Gleeson is woefully miscast as General Brigham. He certainly looks the part of a pudgy general who commands troops from the comfort of his desk, but he lacks authority and any on-screen presence, making it difficult to believe that anyone would take orders from this man.
We dive right into the movie without knowing much about the alien threat. When Cage sees the battlefield for the first time, the only thing we know is that the enemy is from another world, called "Mimics" and unstoppable. The audience gets some more information about the aliens as the movie progresses, but I think the film could've benefited from front-loading this information to inform, rather than confuse, the audience. There's a scene with some people sitting in a pub and speculating about the aliens' motives and intentions. It makes it feel like the only reason the Mimics are unstoppable is because we don't have enough information about them.
The movie is pushing two hours, and there are definitely some areas where the plot was a tad on the convoluted side and could've been simplified without compromising the quality of the tale. The story diverges from the source material but stays true to its spirit, so the complexity was something of its own making. Additionally, the ending could've done with a little more explanation to wrap up the story.
It's slightly disappointing that, in a sci-fi film, the technology that they're using already exists today. The planes are Ospreys that have been modified to be used as dropships, exoskeleton suits are in use, and machine guns aren't anything special.
"Edge of Tomorrow" is worth checking out for the action scenes and "Groundhog Day" sequences alone. The film falters in the story-telling portions, but it's still an enjoyable sci-fi romp.
"Edge of Tomorrow" is rated and has a running time of 1 hour 53 minutes. It's being shown in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D.
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