Published on June 8th, 2014 | by Dan Gvozden0
EDGE OF TOMORROW – REVIEW
Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow is perhaps the best expression of the appeal of videogames ever put to film. For some time now, the film industry has tried to tap into the appeal of the video game market, an industry that now surpasses the film industry in revenue, and failed horribly. Films like The Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider, Super Mario Bros., Doom and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (to name a few) failed to ignite interest in videogame adaptations, clearly missing out on what made their source material so popular.
The problem with those films was that Hollywood was seeking to adapt the storylines and ideas behind these games rather than the user experience of playing them. As a gamer myself, I can remember countless hours of joy and frustration when playing games as varied as “Mega Man” and “Dark Souls.” The appeal of these games was always that no matter how many times I failed, and it was countless, I could always try again. Reset was always an option, even a button. Death wasn’t just a mechanic in these titles, it was the theme that infused every aspect of their design. Slowly but surely I gained the skills necessary to succeed, be it by memorization, gained talent, or just pure luck.
Doug Liman’s adaptation of the videogame-inspired, Japanese novel, turned manga, “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, now titled Edge of Tomorrow, fully explores these mechanics and successfully translates them to the screen. And thankfully, Edge of Tomorrow isn’t about an Italian plumber’s attempts to save a princess, but a soldier’s turn from coward to hero in a battle to save the planet from alien invaders.
We find out these alien invaders came to Earth by way of asteroids and were quickly named Mimics for their ability to copy and anticipate our actions. These deliciously designed villains resemble giant Koosh balls that fling themselves around the battlefield, piercing humans and ships alike with their innumerable tentacles. Europe is quickly overrun and an United Defense Force is assembled for one final push to destroy the enemy.
This dire situation is where we are introduced to Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) who is in London to promote enlistment to fight the mimics. When UDF General Bingham (the delightful Brendon Glesson) assigns him to fight on the frontlines, against his will, he runs and is labeled a deserter. When he awakens from being knocked out by military police, he’s been inserted into J-Squad, the absolute frontline of the attack, and an “ExoSuit,” a giant, mechanical suit meant to augment his strength and firepower. Cage, an unrepentant coward, who has never seen battle before is a sitting duck for the Mimics, who lay in wait.
Through a series of harrowing events, Cage is quickly killed by the Mimics only to wake up to repeat the series of events all over again. The scenario operates similarly to Groundhog’s Day but whereas that film mined the scenario for comedy Edge of Tomorrow is primarily an action film, with a hint of comedy. Cage is forced to, as the marketing material puts it, “Live. Die. Repeat” over and over again until he wins the war.
Only through death is Cage able to reset the day, which means that Tom Cruise is killed dozens of times onscreen. The editing of these sequences, as he learns new tactics to defeat his enemies, is sharp and funny, with cuts that land at exactly the precise moments. The film plays with time and what I thought I knew about how it operated in this context in a number of interesting ways. Just when I thought I had a grasp on what I was watching, the film would already be moving on to the next intriguing utilization of the time loop genre.
Edge of Tomorrow constantly redefines itself, showing the same images again and again in different contexts to showcase the varying emotional reactions and meanings of those images. This also serves to highlight the simultaneous frustration of the characters and the growth of the narrative’s complexity. Edge of Tomorrow makes sure not to talk down to its audience, expecting them to keep up with its steep learning curve. The film gives just enough information to make the story easy to follow but not enough to remove the valuable sense of discovery that keeps it exciting, engaging and rewarding.
Tom Cruise plays against his heroic, movie-star persona as the spineless Cage for another winning performance. Just like his character, Cruise is unkillabe as a Hollywood icon as he constantly fights, over and over again, to earn his place in the hearts of audiences. By the end of the film, Cruise’s Cage is unrecognizable from his performance at the beginning of the film. After all this time, perhaps we all owe Tom Cruise a collective apology.
Emily Blunt’s Rita, another soldier who experienced the time-loop paradox in a previous battle, is there to train and assist Cage in his eternal struggle. Here, Blunt solidifies her role as a serious action film star, after her surprise appearance in Looper. I found it incredibly refreshing to see a female character be given such agency in a film, and Blunt makes full use of that freedom. She’s a radiant force to be reckoned with, as she flies around the battlefield wielding her mechanized cricket bat, and hopefully one that will return to screens again soon.
Edge of Tomorrow is an inventive summer release that should be rewarded for all the risks it takes, its inventive story, and for finally adapting the videogame experience correctly. The third act raises the stakes considerably for its characters and delivers an ending that is satisfying, though perhaps not quite as daring as the material that came before it. All I need now is a “Reset” button so I can experience the film all over again.
Edge of Tomorrow is Aliens meets Groundhog Day and all the good things that that might imply.