So this was the one for me. Of all the summer movies, Edge of Tomorrow was the one that did it for me. It had all the key elements of a summer blockbuster: science fiction, end of civilization, aliens, monsters, monster aliens, cool technology, time travel and humor. And of course, lots and lots of explosions. EoT was helped tremendously by the fact that it featured the world’s top action star, Tom Cruise, who plays a smarmy guy who really deserves to have something nasty happen to him… and it pretty much does in the first 10 minutes. Then the film takes off like a rocket.
Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times called the film “… a badass, sci-fi take on Groundhog Day, with Tom Cruise in the Bill Murray role as a self-centered and not particularly noble loner who finds himself starring in a continual loop in which he is condemned to repeat the same day over and over — which eventually leads to some life-changing revelations.” Yup. Check out the kickass trailer and then find out what I found so enjoyable about it after the jump:
1) What a story! The whole world is at war with some pretty scary alien monsters, and it looks like the humans are getting their asses handed to them. Cruise plays a douchebag PR guy trying to help the military project a positive spin to the frightened masses huddled in front of their TV sets. At this point, you’re already wondering why aren’t all hands on deck trying to stop these monsters, so when Cruise chickens out on being embedded with the front lines in now-or-never offensive strike (a 21st century D-day landing on the beaches of Normandy, no less), you want to hate him even more. The very fact that Cruise is able to turn it all around so that well before the end of the film EVERYONE is rooting for him, is a testament not only to the actor’s considerable skills, but to the great screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie (who won a Best Screenplay Oscar for The Usual Suspects) and relative newcomers Jez and John-Henry Butterworth.
2) Rock ’em, sock ’em action. Remember all the crazy space Marine action in Aliens? Yeah, Edge of Tomorrow was even better than that. Director Doug Liman throws us a huge curveball just as the troops are flying into battle, and the action only slows down when the time travel kicks in. The fact that the same day gets repeated over and over give Liman the chance to show the same set pieces from different angles and perspectives, as our hero tries to learn how to survive. The beach landing is a true madhouse scene, yet it is not even the biggest battle of the film.
3) A great sense of humor. Despite all of the death and destruction and scary monsters and the world coming to a horrific end, there are a lot of genuine laughs in this film. Once it becomes clear to the audience (and to Cruise) that his character will come back from the dead, it starts to resemble a huge video game that keeps getting reset. And well before that becomes boring, the screenwriters find funny stuff in the possibilities. Such as when Emliy Blunt’s character “resets” Cruise during training by shooting him in the head. Or the way Cruise changes his approach to interacting with his loud and obnoxious drill sergeant (played superbly by Bill Paxton) each time he is reborn.
4) Almost believable time travel. I admit, I’m a sucker for a time-travel plot line. That’s one of the reasons why I got such a kick out of Looper (2012). But most movies mess up time travel, which is understandable. Since the notion is clearly impossible, it is also impossible to write a story about it that doesn’t suffer from some sort of inescapable hole in the plot. EoT is no exception, but the movie is so full of win that it is relatively painless to ignore the implausibility of it all and simply enjoy the spectacle and the sly humor.
5) A winning performance by Mr. Cruise. From start to finish, this film is anchored in the actor’s ability to make this whole thing seem real… or at least as real as any sci-fi alien monster time travel movie has a right to seem. Cruise has a talent for expressing physicality; he seems to relish being able to run and roll and take hits, and perhaps a lot of that stuff is covered by his stunt double, but if so, the filmmakers have done a smashing job of concealing it. But I think not. When we see Cruise faceplant in the beach sand, that’s really a multimillionaire actor taking the hit. And apparently loving it.
I may be out of numbers, but I do have to add one more thing: Doug Liman directed the heck out of this film. It seriously rocks and rolls, and I can’t believe I have only seen it once, it’s that good. Strangely, Liman has somehow flown beneath the Visionary or Hack radar. We do not even have him in the undecided bucket, so in he goes, with my vote for placing him In The Lobby for now. Liman has also directed Swingers (1996), The Bourne Identity (2002) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)… none of which qualify him for Visionary status in my opinion. What do you think?