Edge of Tomorrow
Director: Doug Liman
Screenwriters: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson
Warner Bros. Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 113 Minutes
Release Date: June 6, 2013
Live. Die. Repeat.
Directed by Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), Edge of Tomorrow is an ambitious science-fiction film that also serves as an entertaining thesis on electronic gaming and its symbiotic relationship with modern filmmaking.
Based on the novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, the film takes place in the near future where an alien race – the Mimics – has invaded the Earth and overtaken most of Western Europe. The Mimics can anticipate and counter our combat strategies with ease, making them unstoppable. To stand a chance against them, we create battle suits – armored exoskeletons reminiscent of the Power Loader from Aliens or the hydraulic battle chassis from The Matrix Trilogy.
Even with these state-of-the-art suits, Earth’s United Defense Forces are losing the fight. General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) is gearing up for one final assault – Operation Downfall – that’s meant to end the war. Enter Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), a public-relations specialist for the U.S. military who is ordered to document the offensive on the beaches of Normandy with a camera crew.
When Cage attempts to weasel his way out with threats of blackmail, Brigham has him arrested for desertion. He ends up at Heathrow – now a forward operating base – under the command of Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton), a hard-as-nails military man from Kentucky. Farrell has been warned that Cage will try to impersonate an officer and to send him into battle no matter what. Against his will, the cowardly Cage is strapped into a battle suit and shipped off to war.
Upon hitting the beach, the soldiers are ambushed; the Mimics were waiting for them. It’s Starship Troopers meets Saving Private Ryan, with a scared-out-of-his-wits Cage scrambling across a blood-soaked battlefield littered with fallen soldiers. Amidst the chaos, Cage sees the sword-wielding Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) – who has become a symbol of hope for humanity – overwhelmed by Mimics. Seconds later, Cage too is overwhelmed and meets his own gruesome end.
But then something happens. He wakes up. Like Source Code and Groundhog Day, Cage is caught in a time loop – dumped back at the moment he arrived at Heathrow, where he must live out the same day over and over again. Every time he dies, he loops back to that moment, retaining the sum experience gained from his previous encounters. This is possible because his blood mixed with the blood of an Alpha Mimic, a larger alien that can manipulate time and gain knowledge from attacks before they happen.
You can already see the influence of video games in the film’s premise. Cruise must live, die, and repeat – using the experience gained in battle to become a better soldier and eventually “level up.” Once he gets the hang of his nifty new ability, he teams up with Blunt’s legendary war hero – nicknamed the Full Metal Bitch – for cooperative multiplayer. It’s no big secret that films like Aliens and Predator influenced games like Halo and Gears of War, but it’s interesting to see a film so clearly influenced by these futuristic first-person shooters play out on the big screen. Sure, there have been numerous films adapted from video games, but few of them speak the language of gaming so fluently as Edge of Tomorrow.
Liman effortlessly marries the film’s high-concept premise with the gritty realism of futuristic warfare. Screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher) and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth (Fair Game) invigorate the alien invasion sub-genre with clever setups and interesting characters that progress through a plot that continually resets. Of course, this wouldn’t be successful without movie stars like Cruise, Blunt, and Paxton, who deliver magnetic performances that make you enjoy revisiting the same scene multiple times, just so you can see all the different ways they can play it.
Full disclosure: I’m a Tom Cruise guy. I believe that Cruise makes otherwise bad movies bearable and good movies great. Picture anyone else as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible films and you’ve got another generic espionage thriller on the level of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit or The Bourne Legacy. Even in underwhelming films like Knight and Day, Rock of Ages, and Oblivion, he’s never less than believable.
Sure he might be a little crazy, but he’s our last real movie star. I can’t imagine anyone else playing Major William Cage the way Cruise can – going from inept milksop to battle-hardened commando in such a convincing, compelling way. Without Cruise, Edge of Tomorrow probably isn’t as successful – and it damn sure isn’t as entertaining.
Blunt’s Rita Vrataski comes from a lineage of take-no-shit bad-asses like Ellen Ripley and Sarah Connor. She’s also representative of video game heroines like Samus Aran from Metroid and Commander Shephard from Mass Effect. In addition to her futuristic battle armor, she wields the kind of giant freakin’ sword you’ve seen in games like Soul Calibur and Final Fantasy.
Through a series of comedic vignettes, we see Cage die over and over again. He becomes increasingly frustrated – like a novice player stuck on the hard part of a video game. Every time he dies, he goes back to Rita for training. Eventually they discover a way to defeat the Mimics once and for all, leading to a third act that plays out like a boss battle on the hardest difficulty setting, with no continues.
It’s a fitting end for an ambitious blockbuster that feels as immersive as a virtual reality experience. With incredible special effects, terrific performances, and an original property that doesn’t rely on brand recognition, Edge of Tomorrow might just be the best moviegoing experience of the summer.
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