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It’s not hard to dismiss a film as just being a “gimmick” movie. On the other side of the coin, however, it is not easy to admit when it is a good one.
When viewing any piece of advertising for Edge of Tomorrow, there were more than a few people that put the film down as being nothing more than just an “action movie version of Groundhog’s Day,” and that wasn’t wrong. Tom Cruise’s latest action vehicle essentially is that, at the end of the day. But, through its clever script, its strong performances and its competent direction, it is able to become one of the more refreshingly dynamic sci-fi movies of the year.
It’s the near future. So, of course, things are going bad for the human race. After an alien invasion has led the world over to participate in World War III, with most of Europe overtaken and those parts Earth left standing not doing much better, Major William Cage (Cruise) finds himself in a less-than-stellar position. With a attack on France expected to be at least semi-successful, General Brigham (the always great Brendan Gleeson) orders Cage to go on the front line with the other troops, to demonstrate the success of the war efforts and to showcase humanity’s revival.
Despite Cage’s declines, he nevertheless finds himself on the battlefield, only to soon discover that their mission is far from successful. Just as he meets his end, however, he suddenly finds himself back where he was before, reliving all the events of that day over and over again without anyone else noticing anything strange. The only person that ends up taking Cage seriously is Special Forces officer Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), who held a similar type of power not long ago, but lost it. Through her help, Cage may be able to save the human race from being wiped out completely.
The best way to describe Edge of Tomorrow is that it is a dumb action movie made by competent people, intelligently. Allow me to explain what I mean. There is no denying that, if given to the wrong people, that this movie would be an absolute train-wreck, or—perhaps worse—a complete bore. But, thankfully, director Doug Liman (making what is likely his best movie since The Bourne Identity) and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie & Jez and John-Henry Butterworth hold a good sense of humor towards what they are doing with the project.
The plot is decidedly tongue-in-cheek, constantly throwing in visual gags and jokes at the expense of its unlimited potential within this premise. But it also understands the importance of slowing down and focusing on the story at hand, making sure that it is given the seriousness it is need to make the audience invested.
For, much like this summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, Edge of Tomorrow has a decidedly goofy story, but it is handled with enough even-handed silliness and seriousness to flow the story together, before the audience has the chance to think too hard about what is going on.
That said, however, this action flick is not nearly as successful as the aforementioned superhero movie. As expected, the film’s premise is both a blessing and a curse; there is so much availability here that the filmmakers make good use of, in both its action and its story. However, the movie’s repetitiveness grows more and more tiresome as it continues. Of course, this is sometimes the point, and in those moments the movie is effective. But, many times, the movie can't figure out how to get over the hump of continuing to bring life to this premise.
Admittedly, the movie avoids this handicap much more than it probably should. It is obvious that at least someone in this production who took note of Groundhog’s Day build-up in comedic set-ups, in addition to its lightweight approach. Much like that is the key ingredient for the '90s comedy's success, so too is this movie able to breezily go about putting Cage through the ringer for solid slapstick comedic effect in at least the movie’s first half.
But this playfulness grows old. Not to say that the movie jumps the deep end, but the entertainment value to be squeezed here is perhaps not as great as the filmmakers would like to believe, or hope. There is about a good hour or so of good material here, and about another hour of doing the same thing over and over again.
But, to their credit, the filmmakers are smart enough to know that they should focus on the characters more than its overall action and initial plot. So they do, winningly. Cage and Vrataski are more developed and relatable than your average action movie characters, and this grounded effort significantly adds to the movie’s benefactor as they progress naturally in their story. Adding to this are the performances themselves, which—while not spectacular—are still solid, with Blunt being good as usual and Cruise pulling in one of his better “Tom Cruise” performances of late, much like in 2012’s Jack Reacher.
Not to belittle the movie’s action sequences, though, for they are also competently handled and unnaturally grounded in their set pieces—especially for a movie about an alien invasion—with some of the best special effects I have seen so far this year.
But, for all the grounded entertainment produced in the first two acts, it is disappointing that the movie decides to jump the shark in its third. It was said in at least one interview in the past week that the movie's end was conceived only a couple weeks before production started, and it shows. Not that the ending is terrible per se, but it is more or less what audiences would predict from any other run-of-the-mill action movie. Meaning, it is filled with action, but lack in consequences and/or plausibility—both in its action and its resolutions to its characters.
Despite this, however, there are more than a few things to recommend in Edge of Tomorrow, and it is not hard to believe that audiences that enjoy some romp with their action should enjoy their time in the movie theater. At least, for the most part.
image courtesy of Dara Kushner/INFphoto.com