Edge of Tomorrow takes an intriguing premise and does a fabulous job of execution. Someone (and it’s really challenging to find the originator) dubbed this Starship Troopers meets Ground Hog day. It’s a fairly apt description as far as it goes. We’re sending in troops who are overwhelmed by aliens and yes the day repeats for the one person who really doesn’t want to be there but finally gets with the program and thinks about others and becomes the hero. The devil is in the details and the premise is in the execution. I thoroughly enjoyed Edge of Tomorrow. For me, I’m torn about seeing Summer action flicks on the big screen. On the one hand, you want the big screen for the visuals and sound but struggle with paying all of the money for a mediocre story. There is no such trade off here. It’s not the greatest story ever told but it’s a pretty cool narrative that fleshes out the premise to a good conclusion.
Here are some of the many reasons I enjoyed this film:
- The repetition of the days could have been monotonous (indeed, some reviewers found it so); I believe they deftly provided a sense of the dealing with the initial shock, the challenge of repeating (monotony for the repeater) , the knowledge gained each round and the building relationship with Rita (the lovely Emily Blunt) without dragging anything out.
- The humor wasn’t intrusive but brilliant. To the point above, I loved the “Maggot” BAM, “Maggot” BAM rinse & repeat cycle.
- Speaking of relationships, Cage & Rita’s relationship was spot on; not ridiculously romantic in the midst of firefights and not instant but built over time.
- We got to know J squad without overly dwelling on those who would become cannon (or, rather, Mimic) fodder.
- The camera work and CGI for the battle scenes did a great job of providing you with a sense the chaotic nature and speed of the battle and those darn Mimics without crazy, jerky cameras. The CGI work seemed to meld in well and, overall, the scenes had an organic nature to them.
- This is the first full-on action role for Emily Blunt (although her role in the wonderful Wild Target comes close). As with all of her work, she handled it beautifully. (When did Ms. Blunt get a tan?) She was believable as the Angel of Verdun even while it was clear she’s a thinking man’s warrior.
- The supporting roles were stellar, especially Bill Paxton as MSG Farell, Brendan Gleeson as GEN Brigham, Kick Gurry as Griff and Noah Taylor as Dr. Carter.
There are two related aspects of the film for which I didn’t care but they require spoilers to lay out. Suffice it to say, while I didn’t hate the ending, it could have been handled in a less prosaic way.
I think this was one of director Doug Liman’s better efforts, and I loved Bourne Identity, if for no other reason than pulling off such a complex film with some many pieces that could go wrong – CGI could have looked artificial, the repeating process could have been laborious, Cruise & Blunt might not have worked well together and most of all, the premise could have overwhelmed the story where we’re so caught up in the repeat cycle that we miss the narrative drive. Mr. Lyman overcame all of these obstacles to make a really good Summer flick a step above the common fare. I recommend Edge of Tomorrow to all who are looking for a step above the admittedly fun comic-book blockbuster.
I also thought Christophe Beck’s soundtrack to this was really effective. The main title’s (Angel of Verdun’s) throbbing base with a bit of a hint at the challenges to come in the slightly eerie melody grabbed me right away. He always added and enhanced what was on the screen without getting in the way, helping to drive the narrative. I also appreciated how he brought understated subtllety and driving percussion and bass just when needed. Really nice work.
As a side note, I’m interested enough in the premise that I’ll be reading the Japanese novella which inspired the movie, All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka about which none other than John Scalzi wrote: “Science fiction for the adrenaline junkie. Reads fast, kicks ass, and keeps on coming. Buckle up and enjoy.” — John Scalzi, author of Old Man’s War and Fuzzy Nation. UPDATE: I’ve read the book and the review is here.