Reel Matt

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Edge of Tomorrow

Film #441


A soldier fighting in a war with aliens finds himself caught in a time loop of his last day in the battle, though he becomes better skilled along the way.

Year 2, Film #76

THE REVIEW: Live. Die. Repeat. That was the phrase used all over the marketing for Edge of Tomorrow and is very accurate in terms of what happens in this film. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), who is soon demoted to Sergeant Cage, is thrown into the front lines of a war against an invading alien presence called “Mimics” and after getting infected with some of the alien blood, he gains their special power of being able to reset the previous day and relive it all over again. There are many parts throughout this film where this repetition starts to make its presence known and there’s also several questionable moments of suspension of disbelief that had me shaking my head. But what makes Edge of Tomorrow so extraordinarily entertaining is its ability to counteract these moments and pull back at the last second to start you off fresh with something new.

In terms of a big-budget, science-fiction, summer action film, Edge of Tomorrow hits many items on that checklist. It’s got lots of explosions and fighting, alien invaders (always a plus), and even the end-of-the-world apocalypse that can only be stopped by our protagonist. But while Edge of Tomorrow may fit a lot of blockbuster tropes, it maintains a feeling of originality; like a film you’ve never seen in theaters before. That’s because, like the repetition (which I’ll get into more in a second), the director Doug Liman (of The Bourne Identity fame), know just how far he can push it before we start getting bored and fed up. It’s like a big orchestral piece that has big surges of sound with all the instruments playing at once in addition to lulls with only the violins playing a softer, more peaceful part of the song. Just when you’ve had enough of the shaky-cam, battlefield scene, Liman takes you back to the base for a more relaxed scene between Maj. Cage and Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) discussing strategy for what’s going to happen next.

Another big part of this is the premise of the film itself. There are many comparisons that can be drawn from this film including pretty much any science-fiction action film within the past decade (Transformers franchise, any of the Marvel films, the X-Men franchise — there’s been lots of alien invasions), to a film like Source Code and even the Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day. It may be easy to compare Edge of Tomorrow to these films, but it really wouldn’t be representative of it. Sure it’s got the aliens and looming apocalypse of the first batch, it has the main character reliving the same day over and over again like Groundhog Day, and it has the main character reliving the same moment for some military/government purpose like in Source Code, but Edge of Tomorrow has a life of its own. And there’s many possibilities for why this is ranging from its premise, to its characters, and even to its humor which does bring out quite a few laughs for an action film.

The biggest reason I can think of though is the repetition. This again is not new (see: Groundhog Day, Source Code, and I’m sure many others) but it’s how Doug Liman uses it to his advantage that makes it so interesting. First of all, how he shows the repetition is interesting. In both Groundhog Day and Source Code, there were large chunks of each day (or each eight minutes) that were shown every time. Even for Groundhog Day when Bill Murray lives the same day for what seems like years (therefore hundreds of times), you get that passage of time through the aggregate. With Edge of Tomorrow you see a whole lot more of the variations, most lasting mere seconds. Montages therefore make up a large part of this film with ones for his battles on the field, his training with Vrataski, and his multiple missions with her later on. And what ended up happening with each montage, by the end of it I was thinking, “This better be ending soon because it’s starting to get too repetitive. I get the point, he’s reliving this same moment over and over again.” And at that moment, the montage stopped. Always at the right moment. They were never too long to really give the boredom a chance to settle in nor too short to not fulfill its main purpose which is to show a passing of time and a gaining of knowledge as to how the mimics fight. Each montage was the perfect length of time and they went a long way in selling the whole premise of the movie. The whole point is that Maj. Cage can learn to defeat these aliens because he gets to try out many different scenarios. Without believing this one simple element of the film, the rest would fall apart because the action, the invasion, the battles; all of it wouldn’t make sense without understanding this repetitive piece.

As a result, Edge of Tomorrow is the most suspenseful and gripping film I’ve seen this year. I was literally on the edge of my seat for the last act of the film, tensing up my muscles in nervousness for what I was watching take place on screen. While the movie had its fair share of moments that made me question my suspension of disbelief (where did the aliens come from, how were we able to design/build all of this advanced technology so quickly afterwards, why was General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) that upset with Maj. Cage?) they all paled in comparison to the mind-blowing action and storytelling of the rest of the film. The good most definitely made up for the bad parts of this film and then some, because shortly after something left a bad taste in my mouth, a big piece of rich, sweet chocolate came my way and had my taste buds firing on all cylinders again. Between Edge of Tomorrow and The Fault in Our Stars, there’s plenty of great new movie-going material for you to see this weekend in addition to some great hold-overs likes A Million Ways to Die in the West. I highly recommend you go see something.

Edge of Tomorrow opens in theaters today, Friday June 6, 2014.

THE RATING: 5 out of 5