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Who couldnít use good PR?  Even the armed forces meant to save the world benefit from some heroic sound bites that will have the bright-eyed and patriotic queuing up to join.  One of the folks responsible for that influence is Major William Cage, a master at marketing and not a whole lot else thatís useful to the United Defense Force; a fact no one knows better than himself.  His shock and growing panic is then understandable when heís called upon to suit up and head to the front lines of a war offensive. 

Currently, the earth is overrun with mysterious species of extraterrestrial creature that seem rather set on the destruction of the human race.  Victories are few and the prospect of one in this assault is nil, so itís of no help whatsoever to the effort that Cage has zero battle training nor does he have a clue as to how to operate the standard heavy metal ExoSuit that is a soldierís only defense.  

After being dropped directly into the heat of battle, the inevitable happens and Cage is quickly, horribly dispatched. However, instead of waking up in front of Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates, he rises in the same place this nightmare began; at the barracks with the squad he was attached to.  The exact same scenario plays out and while he is able to make minute changes to this dreamlike replay, he still hasnít figured out enough to stop his imminent demise.  Practice make perfect as Cage is obliterated over and over again, yet retains the memories heís stored since the previous death.  Now when Cage returns from the hereafter, he does so taking his training seriously and learning all he can learn about the creatures. 

Inch by excruciating inch, he begins to alter things, but he knows that thereís only one person who might be able to make a real difference in the worldís fate.  The hero of humanity is one Rita Vrataski, a legend known on the battlefield by a tough but none-too-flattering epithet.  Rita had appeared in an earlier version of Cageís death and clued him in as to what was happening.  Ritaís belief Cageís outrageous tale is based in her own experience with the phenomena and subsequent loss of it.  She and Cage then repeat days over and over in training to prepare for their chance to destroy the main Mimic.  First, theyíve got to hope their luck and Cageís do-over power doesnít run out.

Weíve seen this day caught in a loop premise done excellently in 1993ís Groundhog Day, so the question is how to make it stand out from such a perfect template?  Loads of action would be a good start, and Edge of Tomorrow packs it in.  The shots of the opening battle are like a compressed mecha version of Saving Private Ryanís Normandy nightmare.  Gray-toned chaos amidst unstoppable carnage, some of the brutality is so senseless itís almost laughable.

Director Doug Liman paces the rerun days so quickly and smartly that they are a story unto themselves and increasingly funny, even as Cage gets smarter, faster, stronger, etc., by virtue of many painful deaths.  The questions of which way Cage will turn given a particular situation and how that result will turn out if he does just one thing differently is a fascinating demonstration of the butterfly effect.  The dťjŗ vu all over again transforms Cage not only into a better soldier, but a better man; one capable of sacrifices he would never have made at the beginning of the film. 

The action is rapid fire and jarring, but doesnít get overly grim.  Rita realises quickly that she must occasionally help along Cageís reboot process with a handy .45, which is a gallowsí laugh.  Tom Cruise, for all that heís the hero, forgoes many of the tricks and affectations heís become known for in over thirty years of filmmaking.  He allows himself to be the callow guy at first, then the terrified wreck and weakling, and even after the many crash courses in how to toughen up and kill the Mimics, doesnít play it like Superman coming to save the day. 

Iím not entirely sure I bought Emily Blunt as either a legendary warrior, or as a love interest for Cruise; the chemistry wasnít so much.  She does gives her usual intelligent performance, which works great for the banter and humour between Rita and Cage, which is in itself another power source for this film.  In a much too small role, Brendan Gleeson plays the UDF general that sets our hero on his path - seemingly to destruction - and his disdain and bemusement at Cageís apparent uselessness is rich.  Thereís also Bill Paxton in a bit as the sergeant who gives Cage his first taste of actual UDF life.  Of course my mind immediately zoomed to Aliens upon seeing the actor in military gear, which was only enforced when someone exclaims ďItís game overĒ when discussing the Mimic threat.  The ExoSuit, a slimmed-down, high-firepower version of the armour that made it possible for Ripley to face the Alien Queen, is what enables the soldiers here to have half (and only half) a chance to survive against their outer-space foes.  Small things like that made me appreciate this film more for acknowledging at least one of its mommies.

The Mimics look like long-haired tumbleweeds with whipping, spearing cable tentacles eviscerating their prey and any ammo shy of a Gatling gun is useless against them.  Cage discovers there is more than one type of Mimic and they are all in service to keep outsiders from coming near the inner sanctum of the Omega, A.K.A. Mother Mimic.  They arenít terribly much to look at and couldíve been rendered more substantially, but theyíre enough to give the impression of the relentless, blinding fast damage they can do, particularly when theyíre terribly difficult to track when in hiding.  You might be walking along minding your own business and *pop* from out under your feet comes a Mimic, then you have no feet. 

The sense of being overwhelmed by the enemy that just flails its many tendrils and makes you dead is aptly conveyed.  Scary as they may be, itís really the clever handling of Cageís own personal Groundhog Day and the evolution of the character that gives the movie substance.  The audience takes for granted after a while that Cage will just get back up every time he falls, but with the revelation that may not always be so, the suspense builds with the aching increments of Cageís efforts to get as close as he has to vanquishing the aliens, as well as the finality of it really, truly being life or death should Cage or anyone close to him be killed after the loop ends.

Confession time: When I went into the screening of this film, I hadnít read the novel, All You Need is Kill by author Hiroshi Sakurazaka, or the manga adaptation illustrated by Death Note artist Takeshi Obata.  Both those oversights have been rectified.  However, it presented a problem as to how to view this film.  I felt I had to address the lack of similarity to the source material, because it exists.  Many fans of the popular manga will complain that this is another Hollywood bastardisation and thereís some truth to that. 

As opposed to the middle-aged Cruise and thirty-ish Blunt, the protagonists of the original novel and manga are barely out of their teens and have always had the aliens in their lives; imminent death has always hung over their heads.  Whatís lost by the change is the philosophical depth of having kids barely out of puberty fighting and dying repeatedly, which, but for the reset ability, is not terribly different from wars today.  We see the internal changes and straight-up damage dealt to the mind and soul of the hero as a result of having to see his friends and himself destroyed over and over.  The connection he feels with Rita for their shared experience is lessened in the film in favour of a romantic bent. 

Edge of Tomorrow isnít trying to be heavy or make a point as Sakurazakaís work was, itís just trying to entertain, which is does in spades.  Only the outer skin of the source was used to make this a proper Tom Cruise summer blockbuster; one of the best of his of recent years.  Thatís how I would suggest audiences go in looking at Edge of Tomorrow, because itís extremely fun and totally worth the big tub of popcorn.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

June 6th, 2014

 

 

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