Tuesday, July 1, 2014


The soldier that Tom Cruise plays in “Edge of Tomorrow” (*** OUT OF ****) gets his butt kicked all over creation.  “Bourne Identity” director Doug Limon’s supercharged, imaginative, science fiction time-loop thriller synthesizes elements of “Starship Troopers” and “Source Code.”  Surpassing Cruise’s earlier desolation Earth outing “Oblivion,” “Edge of Tomorrow” differs chiefly in terms of story and setting.  Although “Oblivion” occurred on post-apocalyptic planet Earth, “Edge of Tomorrow” takes place before the apocalypse, with mankind desperately pitted against aggressive extraterrestrials with no compassion.  Lightning-fast, squid-like creatures called ‘Mimics’ have invaded Earth.  These invincible whirling dervishes with tentacles have been on the warpath now for the last five years, blitzing their way across the European continent, and advancing toward England without any sign of slowing down.  Predictably, Cruise lands on his feet in the middle of this catastrophic, life and death mayhem.  He doesn’t play the usual heroic character that he played in “Top Gun.”  This represents the first time Cruise has portrayed a yellow-livered skunk.  He goes from being a coward to a hero in an arc that is as entertaining as the film is exciting.  You can differentiate Tom Cruise movies by how often he gets his butt kicked.  Remember “The Last Samurai?”  Cruise had to grovel in that splendid fish-out-of-water spectacle set in Japan.  Usually Cruise doesn’t grovel.  His groveling, however, makes his subsequent acts of heroism all the more convincing.  Mind you, “Edge of Tomorrow” would still qualify as a good, solid movie even if Cruise weren’t getting kicked all over creation.  Mankind is poised on the brink of extinction as these insatiable aliens decimate populations.  The futuristic, 80-pound, exoskeleton combat suits that the soldiers wear looks as cool as the aliens are imitating.  Everything about “Edge of Tomorrow” looks great.  This isn’t a shiny, chrome-plated, sci-fi epic, but a tarnished, grungy-looking one.  Some of the performances stand out.  As Master Sergeant Farrell, Bill Paxton steals every scene that he has with his Southern-fried drawl, while Brendan Gleeson makes a curt supreme army commander and reminded me of Norman Schwarzkopf.  Last but not least, lean-muscled Emily Blunt is pretty hard-nosed and business-like as the pugnacious ‘Angel of Verdun.’  Alongside these fine performers, Cruise holds his own as a disgraced officer who redeems himself in the crucible of combat.

Oscar winning “Usual Suspects” scenarist Christopher McQuarrie and “Fair Game” co-scribes Jez and John-Henry Butterworth have adapted Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel “All You Need is Kill,” which came out in December 2004.  As a military public relations officer for the United Defense Force, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise of “War of the Worlds”) has never fired a shot in combat, but he does a commendable job as long as he is stationed far behind the lines.  Imagine Cage’s horror when UDF General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson of “Braveheart”) decides to embed him with ground troops as they storm the French beaches in a last ditch effort to thwart the Mimics.  Cage flatly refuses Brigham’s orders to follow the troops into battle.  Not only does Brigham order Cage arrested and demoted to buck private, but he also assigns him to join a first wave combat unit.  Although “Edge of Tomorrow” is a sci-fi saga, the beachhead scenes where Cage and his unit are flown into action against the Mimics is reminiscent of Spielberg’s classic “Saving Private Ryan.”  Like “Starship Troopers,” the soldiers are flown into combat and dropped from helicopter-style planes.  Once on the ground, the troops rely on their heavily armed battle suits to shred the Mimics with fusillades of gunfire.  The Mimics are slaughtering soldiers left and right until one of them smashes headlong into Cage.  Our terrified protagonist uses a mine to kill one.  When Cage kills a large ‘Alpha’ Mimic, the slimy critter douses him with its blood.  Incredibly enough, despite dying from the Mimic’s blood, Cage discovers that he gets another chance to live and fight again!  Essentially, like the Jake Gyllenhaal character in “Source Code,” Cage relives the first day over and over until he encounters another soldier, Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt of “Loopers”), who experienced the same sensation when a large ‘Alpha’ Mimic killed her.  Before he meets Rita, Cage is killed several times in combat.  Meantime, each time that he dies, Cage awakens just as suddenly to find himself back at Camp Heathrow alive and well.  Director Doug Limon displays quite a bit of flair in handling the same scene over and over again.  Each time that Cage reawakens from his death, he devises new ways to contend with the Mimics.  Sergeant Rita explains to Cage that the same thing occurred to her at Verdun until she received a blood transfusion.  Eventually, as he relives the same day over and over again ad nauseam, Cage becomes so familiar with the turbulent events of that day that he can anticipate when and where the  Mimics will strike.  Before long, Rita trains Cage so that they become a dynamic duo, and they discover that the Mimics have a secret that makes them invincible.  When they try to convince their superiors, especially General Brigham, that they can destroy the Mimics, they are treated as deserters.
Although it boasts some fascinating as well as formidable alien adversaries, “Edge of Tomorrow” doesn’t emphasize horror so much as tension and suspense.  Meaning, you can watch it and not worry about leaving your lights on when you sleep for fear of nightmares.  Basically, it boils down to a crackerjack mission movie with Cruise and Blunt assembling up their own crew of misfits to destroy the aliens and save the day.  Director Doug Limon and his writers steer clear of romance in any way, shape, or form.  The single drawback to this otherwise atmospheric, first-rate actioneer is that the filmmakers don’t provide enough details about the invaders from space.  Nevertheless, watching Tom Cruise get killed dozens of times until he knows what to do is as stimulating as it is amusing.

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