Monday, June 9, 2014

Cruise and Blunt Shine in Refreshing Alien Invasion Flick: Our Review of "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014)

Directed By: Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material

Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

Synopsis: See below in the opening paragraphs


A: Hello dear readers! Sarah and I caught three films this past weekend, one of which was the teenage romance film The Fault in Our Stars (you can read our review of that HERE) on Friday night, and the second one of those was the new Tom Cruise sci-fi/action film Edge of Tomorrow. This is one I had been hearing great things about in the weeks leading up to its release, so suffice it to say I was excited to see this one. Before we get to the review, though, I feel like I need to explain the concept of the film just a bit.

Based on a 2004 Japanese novel called "All You Need is Kill," Edge of Tomorrow stars Cruise as Major William Cage, the head PR guy for a worldwide military called the United Defense Force that's fighting an invasion from a destructive alien race dubbed "Mimics." The UDF is losing the war by a large margin, with Europe almost completely invaded by the Mimics, and only having won one battle - the Battle of Verdun - thanks to the heroics of a soldier named Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, The Devil Wears Prada).

After refusing to be embedded with a troop on the front lines of a planned beach invasion called Operation Downfall, Cage is stripped of rank and sent to basic training the day before the invasion by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). There, Cage is thrust into the front lines of the invasion and promptly killed in action by an "alpha" Mimic.....then somehow wakes up again back at basic training the day before the invasion.

Despite attempts to tell everyone something strange is going on and that the impending invasion is doomed from the start, Cage keeps reliving the same two days over again. He finally approaches Vrataski after seeing her on the battlefield and discovers she, too, has experienced the same phenomenon thanks to her blood getting mixed with an alpha Mimic's blood and thereby gaining their power to manipulate time, which is how the Mimics have been winning the war so far, and how she was able to win the Battle of Verdun. From there they team up to learn how they can win Operation Downfall and, more importantly, the war.

Whew! That's a lot of words! And one of the more impressive parts about the film is that it's all summed up and explained very well in the first act better than I did just now. So Sarah, now that we've seen the film and I've done my best to set up the concept of the film, what did you think of Edge of Tomorrow?

Sarah: Let me start out by saying that I was a little apprehensive about seeing this movie. Cruise hasn't been super impressive lately outside of Rock of Ages and this is the first time we were seeing Blunt in this action-type role. So I was so pleasantly surprised! 

In fact, up until the next day, I would have said that this was probably the most fun I have had at the movies this summer! It was everything I wanted from an action blockbuster. And the best part? I really had no preconceived notions about what this movie was going to be like! They handled the time jumping beautifully, and the aliens? Most creative anatomy since Alien's Xenomorphs in my opinion! 

A: I'm so glad to hear you say those things, because I absolutely loved this movie from start to finish. I love the concept of the film and how well they handled the time-travel aspect of it. I can't really say it's wholly original because it's based off of a novel, but in the film-world this is like taking Groundhog Day and turning it into an action film and it totally works.

The cast here is magnificent. Cruise is perfect in the role of Major William Cage, Emily Blunt is a revelation as the kick-ass "Angel of Verdun," and the supporting cast of Bill Paxton as Cage's Master Sergeant during his bootcamp and operation scenes, Brendan Gleeson as the General who sent him there, and Noah Taylor (Locke on HBO's Game of Thrones) as Rita's confidante, Dr. Carter, are equally perfect in their limited scenes. Paxton is hysterical, in particular.

But the real story here is how great Cruise and Blunt are in this film, don't you think?

S: Ok, we have seen Cruise act opposite women who have been action stars before (Cameron Diaz in Knight and Day for example) and some have just been awful. Which is one of the main reasons I was a little hesitant to see this one. 

But Cruise and Blunt were simply amazing together! I think what really had me about the two of them was that there wasn't any real love tension between them. Because Cruise was resetting every day, Blunt's Vrataski was getting to know him all over again every day, literally. So it wasn't about a romantic relationship. That was refreshing. 

A: That's one of the best ways to put it I think. There wasn't really a romantic thing going on here between Cruise and Blunt (for the most part) and instead it was just focused on their relationship as a teacher and pupil as she has to keep teaching him how to become a great soldier. Honestly, with just a little bit of script revision Blunt's part could've been played by a guy and the movie still would've been pretty great. But Blunt is a big reason why this movie is a blast, IMO.

Sticking with the whole "resetting" thing - I loved it. I thought director Doug Liman (who directed one of our favorite action flicks, Mr. & Mrs. Smith); screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth; and the cast make the resetting thing a constant source of entertainment but also keep it a good storytelling device. Every time he comes back, Cage has to have learned something to pass along to Rita and Dr. Carter so they can keep figuring out how to beat the Mimics. He's taking what he's learned and applying it time after time, and it's because of that aspect that I think Edge of Tomorrow is the best video-game movie ever.

I say that (and so have others) because this movie so perfectly captures the essence of playing a video game where you get killed in the game and have to restart from wherever you last saved, then keep trying and get past certain points or  puzzles or enemies and applying what you've learned so you can progress in the game. It's fantastic, it really is.

S: It really is a video game movie, but that in no way takes away from the fact that this is just a good action movie. 

I think my favorite aspect of the action in the movie are the aliens, actually. These things were gnarly. Moving at a speed that were hard for the naked eye to follow sometimes, the Mimics were so freaking cool. Their appendages are almost vine-like but also razor sharp, with the ability to impale their prey. 

But the thing I liked about them most was that they had these permanently opened mouths, almost like they were frozen in a scream. Something about that made it seem very eerie and quite terrifying for a movie villain. And while they were call Mimics in the movie, they more resembled nerve endings with their quick movements, almost like trying to reach out and feel what was in front of them before attacking. It was visually exhausting but stunning at the same time. 

A: I agree with you on the Mimics, I thought they were pretty sweet. I especially love their introduction when Cage first goes into battle. They truly are whirling dervishes and at first it was hard to make out what they were, but I think that added to what I liked about them. Liman kept us guessing a little about what these things were and just how dangerous they could be.

Speaking of the battle, the battle scenes in this movie were terrific. Obviously they were going for a Normandy Beach look in this film and I think they nailed it. The operation is a slaughter and all the different ways that Cage and Rita have to deal with it and get killed and come back and have to figure out a different way to fight the aliens was just so creative. It was also very humorous at times with a montage of Cage being killed time and time again, but thankfully they didn't do that for too long. Just enough, really.

If I have any complaint about the film it's that a specific plot point happens about two-thirds of the way through the movie, maybe more like three-quarters of the way, and it changes the film in tone. And considering how much I was enjoying the film to that point I could have easily been upset and disliked the final act, and while I didn't love the final act as much as the rest of the film, I still enjoyed it. So it's a very small complaint about the change in tone.

S:The battles really were pretty amazing. Even though we were seeing the same basic scenes of the same battle over and over again there were little nuances that made each time a little different. This definitely kept it exciting and made each time seem a little more intense than the last. 

I can see where you might have that complaint. And the movie really does take a tonal shift. The end all happened a little too quickly for my liking too. I would have liked to have seen a little more of that action sequence. In fact, they could have cut down a little on the repetitiveness of the battle and focused a little more on the end. But, I guess that wasn't quite the point of the movie as a whole. It really was more of the journey.

A: Before we wrap this up, I just wanted to go back and mention how great Emily Blunt is in this. She's a badass mother who don't take no crap from nobody here. I mean, she uses a freaking helicopter blade as a sword! We know she's been great in stuff like The Devils Wears Prada and Looper, but this could be a big breakout movie for her if she can get more good action roles like this. She's awesome here.

S: I also want to point out that we saw this movie in 3D. Now, we have talked before about the fact that we are not huge 3D fans, but for the time frame we were working with, this was our best option. While I thought it was fine in 3D, I don't necessarily think this is one that needs to be seen in that format. But it definitely needs to be seen on the big screen even if just for the beach battles.

I really enjoyed this movie as a whole. It was a fun, action packed film that definitely fit the bill as a "Summer Blockbuster." 

A: I really enjoyed this movie, too. It's right up there as one of my favorites we've seen this year so far and I really hope more people give it a shot while it's in theatres, because it only made $28.7 million its opening weekend (good for 3rd behind The Fault in Our Stars and Maleficent), and this is the exact kind of summer blockbuster that movie-going audiences DESERVE as opposed to yet another Transformers movie and the terrible-looking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film that Michael Bay is spewing out. 

Edge of Tomorrow is funny, exciting, it's a great reintroduction to the kind of movie star Tom Cruise was and still can be, and gosh darn it if that repeated shot of Emily Blunt bending up from the floor doesn't become an iconic sci-fi shot, I don't know what would.

The marketing has been horrible for it, so I hope people give this one a chance, since it really deserves it.

FINAL VERDICT: A must-see on the big screen!

(Individual Scores - S: 4/5  A: 4.5/5)

Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

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