Edge of Tomorrow

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a public relations officer with the US Army Reserves.  He appears on TV news shows to discuss the recent victory at Verdun against the Mimics, an alien life form that arrived on Earth five years earlier and began taking over Europe.  The win at Verdun is about the only good news in the Mimic war.  Leading the way in that battle was a soldier named Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt).  The NATO militaries combined to form the United Defense Forces (UDF) led by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson).  The UDF has recently begun to use weaponized exoskeletons called Jackets and it was Rita’s ability with the new weapon that led to the victory.  Cage is summoned to UDF headquarters to meet with General Brigham.  There Cage is informed he will be joining a massive invasion of France on the front lines, recording video of the operation and selling it with a positive spin to the public.  Cage is untrained as a soldier and fears getting killed so he threatens to make the General look bad in the public’s eyes.  Brigham appears at first to accept Cage’s threat but then has him arrested for desertion.  Cage runs but is tazed and sent unconscious to the forward operating base at Heathrow Airport where he meets Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton).  Cage tries to explain what has happened and that he cannot be a part of the first wave; but General Brigham has sent forward a message saying Cage is a deserter and impersonated an officer, explaining his uniform.  Farell has no time for any of Private Cage’s stories and introduces him to his fellow soldiers in J Company.  When the troops are dropped in the next day they are quickly slaughtered by the Mimics who apparently knew of the coming invasion.  Cage, using a Claymore charge, is able to kill an unusually large Mimic that glows blue instead of the usual orange/yellow.  Cage is also killed in the explosion and doused with the alien’s blood.  He then wakes up back at Heathrow and relives everything just as it happened up to the invasion.  Cage is stuck in a time loop and whenever he is killed, he returns to Heathrow to start over again.  The more loops he makes, the better he is at being a soldier and he’s able to survive longer and longer.  In one loop, he saves the life of Rita Vrataski.  Seeing Cage is able to anticipate what is happening she tells him to look for her when he wakes up just before they are both killed by an exploding aircraft.  Finding Rita, Cage learns she once had the same ability but lost it after being injured and receiving three units of blood.  She tells him, if he’s injured, he better die so the process will start again.  Together, Rita and Cage train and plan how to change the outcome of the battle and perhaps the war.
 
“Edge of Tomorrow” is based on a Japanese novel and sounds like the name of an afternoon soap opera.  While it does have some melodrama and a tiny bit of romance, the film is otherwise a sci/fi action adventure that keeps the audience guessing from the first time loop all the way to the end.
 
The look of the film is very gritty and realistic.  The battle suits worn by the soldiers all look a little beat up like they’ve seen hard use.  The suits have numerous functions including large-caliber machine guns and rocket launchers.  They also augment the soldier’s strength and provide some protection from incoming fire.  After several loops, Cruise wears the suit like a second skin.  Blunt, whose character is well-trained and experienced with the exoskeleton, jumps and runs in the armor like she was born in it.  According to the Wiki page for the movie, the suits on average weighed 85 pounds with some versions weighing 130 pounds.  The fact the actors could walk at all much less make it look like the suits were adding power and agility to their actions makes their performances that much more impressive.
 
Cruise and Blunt are great in their roles but the one true standout in the cast is Bill Paxton as Sergeant Farell.  Laying on a thick southern accent (the character is from Kentucky), Paxton steals just about every scene he’s in.  His smile and demeanor belie a mean streak that shows itself whenever he’s questioned or gets backtalk from Cage or any other soldier.  Farell is a no-nonsense fighting man who instills his message to his troops that true glory can only be found in combat and that a man shows his true nature under fire.  Paxton, who has recently been seen on TV as a turncoat agent on “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” is also very funny in the role, especially when Cage is anticipating everything he says, leaving Farell dumbstruck and confused.  I wish a way had been found get Paxton in more scenes of the film so his character could get a better showcase; however, a little Paxton is better than none at all.
 
The alien design is unusual and completely…alien.  The creature appears to be a grouping of many rope-like limbs that can be reconfigured to form hooks or other types of appendage.  They can bury themselves in the ground and ambush approaching troops as well as survive underwater.  They can move at incredible speed and cause great fear in soldiers who see them coming.  The aliens roll as they move with their limbs spraying out in all directions.  They are fairly difficult to kill, requiring several rounds of ammo to bring them down, although a direct rocket hit seems to do the trick.  These aliens are mindless killing machines who aren’t interested in diplomacy or negotiation.  Their job is simple:  Kill every human.  Why they’re here is a mystery that is never answered in the film, leaving it up to the audience to figure out.  Why isn’t really that important although I would have liked some kind of answer to that question.
 
The film is packed with really intense action sequences; however, some of these contain bits that either don’t look very good or stretch believability to the breaking point.  Emily Blunt’s character wields a large blade as her primary weapon and often jumps towards an alien to add power to her strike.  Some, if not all, of these jumps are augmented with cables and pulleys, giving her more height and distance.  It’s a type of stunt called wirework.  Sometimes, wirework doesn’t look quite right with odd spins or dangling that doesn’t mesh up with the physics at play.  Some of Blunt’s jumps look downright painful as she twists oddly and her legs seem to be moving in a fashion that doesn’t match her leap.  Cruise fares better with his wirework but is let down by a stunt that is obviously a CGI version of his body that morphs into the real actor near the end.  Cruise is dangling on the outside of an aircraft that is about to crash into a building.  Cruise is thrown through the air at very high speed and lands on a slope, rolling to a stop at the bottom.  He then stiffly stands up but is otherwise unhurt.  My BS detector began screaming with this stunt as the character isn’t from a planet called Krypton.  While I’m willing to accept an alien race attacking the Earth, this stunt sent me over the edge and briefly pulled me out of the movie.  While some of the stunts and added special effects were totally unbelievable, most of the action is great and, in a small way, reminded me of the Normandy scene in “Saving Private Ryan.”
 
“Edge of Tomorrow” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, brief suggestive material, intense sequences of sci-fi violence and language.  There is a great deal of gun violence, exploding planes and fighting in the film.  While the violence is graphic it isn’t gory with very little blood visible.  The battle scenes on the beach are chaotic and could be upsetting to younger or more sensitive children.  Cruise is injured and killed numerous times while training with mechanical versions of the aliens with Blunt shooting him more than once when he’s hurt.  I cannot recall anything that could be considered suggestive as there is no nudity and no scenes showing a couple in bed.  Foul language is extremely scattered and fairly mild.
 
“Edge of Tomorrow” is the kind of sci/fi fantasy that likes to have its cake and eat it too.  I won’t explain that comment as it would likely spoil the film; however, if you saw Cruise’ last film, “Oblivion,” then you will have some idea what I’m talking about.  While the time travel aspect of the plot is a commonly used device, the film manages to do something different with it that makes it not seem like the same old same old.  While the film didn’t open particularly well, with a first weekend of less than $30-million, it is a movie that is well worth your time and investment.  Rarely do such big-budget films with A-list actors manage to pull off a unique take of a well-worn idea.
 
“Edge of Tomorrow” gets five guitars out of five.
 
Four new films hope you’ll like them…you’ll really, really like them as they open this week.  Vote for the next film I see and review.
 
22 Jump Street—After making their way through high school (twice), big changes are in store for officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) when they go deep undercover at a local college.
 
Chinese Puzzle—A 40-year-old divorced father of two moves to New York to be near his children when life suddenly takes on complications he never imagined.
 
How to Train Your Dragon 2—Hiccup and Toothless battle the power-hungry Drago.
 
The Immigrant (not the same movie as last week’s “Immigrant”)—Ewa Cybulski and her sister sail to New York from their native Poland in search of a new start and the American dream.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of his choice currently in theatres or On Demand.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
Send questions or comments to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.