It’s occasionally fruitful to have open a review with a brief discussion about how I approach a movie. There are many ways to assess a movie’s quality, but one I’ve found is a pretty universal metric is how well it evokes it’s intended emotional reaction. This is not the same thing as enjoyment: I didn’t enjoy a moment of 12 Years a Slave but I still named it the best movie of 2013, because of how it made me feel (horribly depressed, if you were curious).
Thus the most important metric of an action movie is how excited it gets me. Sure it’s nice if there’s more going on under the hood. Indeed, that’s what separates merely good action movies from the true greats like District 9 and Attack the Block but if all a movie is aiming for is to be merely a good action flick, just being exhilarating to watch can be enough to carry it if it’s competently executed. Why yes, I am talking about Edge of Tomorrow. How did you know?
Loosely adapted from a Japanese Light Novel entitled All You Need is Kill (which is, frankly, a much better title), the plot is devoted to the world being invaded by an alien force known as the Mimics. As we learn in an extremely efficient opening sequence, they landed in Europe and have been steamrolling us, but we’ve recently managed to win a major offensive. On the eve of another major offensive, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is ordered into combat, despite being a whiny, cowardly, inexperienced, incompetent armchair warrior who’s primary job up until that point has been media relations. When he tries to refuse, he finds himself dumped on the base right before the attack and is forced to participate in the invasion. Despite being in a totally freaking sweet robot suit, he is quickly killed on the field…when he wakes, right before the attack. After going through that several times, he finally meets the army’s most decorated and effective soldier, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and learns what’s happened to him (as it had previously happened to her). He’s tapped into the technology that’s allowing the Mimics to constantly reset the day and predict what’s happening and maybe have a chance of ending the war.
Okay, so as you might have guessed from that plot description, it’s a Groundhog Day loop story with an action movie twist. Basically, Cage has to find the location of the leader of the alien invasion and keep trying to get there with Rita over and over, each time getting a little farther through trial and error. This is a neat little idea and the film gets how to use it. Take for example, Cruise’s characterization. It gets, right off the bat, that Cruise is an unlikeable douche and that therefore the only way we could get behind his character arc of becoming less of a douche is if we got to see him getting killed over and over again. Lo and behold, that’s what happens. It also gets the inherent humor in Cruise getting farther with every death and just decides to run with it.
What I’m saying is the movie understands what it does well and how to execute it. Tom Cruise is well cast, as he does both the naïve and cowardly characterization at the beginning reasonably well, and when the 2nd act hits and he’s finally allowed to be his usual stock persona as the most badass human being ever (a bit we, as the audience, don’t buy as much anymore) we get it as we’ve gotten to see him learn. He also does a really good approximation of the kind of the Groundhog Day inescapable exhaustion, as it fits well with his natural affect. Emily Blunt and Cruise may not have a ton of chemistry, but she does the action girl bit well and she’s a good presence in the action scenes. Those action scenes may not be the best or most original of the year, but they’re all pretty solid. The robot suits are, as stated earlier, pretty sweet overall and they’re well used. Plus it’s cool to assume they’re prototypes for Space Marine power armor. The Mimics are interestingly designed, nothing on Attack the Block‘s fantastic minimalism but they look cool, have an interesting way of moving and they lend themselves well to the sequences well. The special effects look good, the script is above average for a blockbuster popcorn flick, it’s well shot, well scored and well paced. Basically what I’m saying is, it’s well made for a big budget popcorn flick.
Yeah, I got quibbles. There’s some irritating breaks of “Show, Don’t Tell,” in particular with regards to the secondary characters. The third act is a bit of a letdown, as it abandons the film’s more comedic and interesting aspects in favor of a generic ‘assault on the alien’ headquarters and a dull ending. The other members of Cruise’s squad seem to be going for the ragtag bunch of misfits vibe, but don’t really get enough screentime to pay it off (although one of them going into battle naked under his armor was a funny idea). And is it a complaint that Emily Blunt’s character didn’t get to use her Buster Sword enough?
Edge of Tomorrow is, ultimately, a well executed movie, with a fun premise and good action that does just enough to rise above average. It’s probably not going to change your life and it’s definitely not going to be on my top 10 come December, but for now it’s a good popcorn flick and solid counter programming to some…other movie I’ve promised to stop banging on about. So while I wouldn’t put it ahead of X-Men or Captain America, if you’re looking for a good action flick to go see to get out of the heat, Edge of Tomorrow comes with my recommendation.
Elessar is a 24 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he managed to go an entire review without mentioning Tom Cruise’s personal life or Scientology. Wait…DAMMIT!
– good action scenes
– solid physical comedy
– fun design on both robot suits and aliens
– weak third act and ending
– not a lot of characterization in the secondary characters