Time-warped nightmare profusion6/11/2014
“Edge of Tomorrow”
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
All high-concept, but affording only minimal entertainment reward by way of its stale ghost-in-the-machine storyline, “Edge of Tomorrow” is the “Groundhog Day” of sci-fi movies. Based on a Japanese novel (“All You Need is Kill”), the film’s primary gimmick is a time-looping narrative device that allows for a good deal of laziness from its three screenwriters. You guessed it; the film’s two warrior protagonists keep getting killed before returning to live out the same ill-fated day. The trick is they get to warm up for the big day in between. Director Doug Liman (famous for his work on the Matt Damon-“Bourne” franchise) whips up an underwhelming ride for young moviegoers to goggle at.
Tom Cruise plays Major William Cage, a scaredy-cat public relations flack for the U.S. Military who can’t stand the sight of blood. An alien invasion of multi-tentacled interstellar metal warriors — known as Mimics — sends Cage to the European frontline where America’s United Defense Force is fighting a losing battle against a mighty army of fast-twitch metal monsters. Tom Cruise has fun playing Cage as a spineless tool for the film’s first 10 minutes. Cruise isn’t above poking fun at himself, and it works well for the movie, if only briefly. It only takes a few more minutes for Cage to transform from sissy-nerd to badass.
Major Cage might have avoided his excruciating wartime fate had he not tried to blackmail a four-star general (Brendan Gleeson). It begs logic, however, that a 51 year-old man — even of Tom Cruise’s physique — would be called up overnight to fight as a soldier in a hyper-fast version of D-Day where no humans survive, although two humans reincarnate on a daily basis.
Emily Blunt’s Special Forces ass-kicker Sgt. Rita Vrataski is a commando with her own tagline; it reads, “Full Metal Bitch” on billboard ads. Here is Jean D’ Arc for the 21st century. Emily Blunt’s sexy tomboy incarnation of a modern day Warrior Queen is hot. Her signature weapon is a gigantic machete-like sword that speaks truth to power. Rita beat Cage to the punch of some transmogrifying alien goop, which allows them each to reincarnate on a daily basis for the purpose of saving the planet. The aliens are playing God on a couple of personal levels, even if the filmmakers don’t bother to exploit the possibilities. For all the threat the aliens offer to humanity, the creatures get no editorial voice. It’s like having mute Klingons. What would be the point?
The just-a-wee-bit-sexist screenwriters insist on doing a bait and switch that allows Cage to quietly steal Rita’s conqueror-champion thunder. It seems Sgt. Rita Vrataski needs a better publicist. The filmmakers hardly bother to deliver on the narrative offer promised by giant billboards that only seem to foreshadow significant story development for Sgt. Vrataski beyond the tacit love bond she makes with Cage.
Even with the aid of a tricked-out mechanized weapons suit, Private Cage dies on his first mission after getting a look at Sgt. Vrataski’s imposing battlefield skills. Shockingly, Cage snaps right back to life after having his face melted off by alien blood goop. Rita trains Cage in defense and offence techniques to help them escape from the battle that they come to know like the backs of their hands. Rita and Cage keep dying and returning to their first day of battle, until they can survive long enough to locate and destroy the much-discussed “Omega” — the aliens’ hidden power-mind that must be destroyed. Cue the sad trombone.
It’s fun for the audience during the first few times Cage returns to meeting and greeting his troop and going out on their doomed mission. But the sequence gets old quick. Cage alters his behavior in slight ways, as he gradually becomes a super-soldier male version of Rita. The repeated set-ups and dialogue are humorous in a bland way that makes you wish for a better story.
“Edge of Tomorrow” has no sense of the potential political satire it squanders, but it does manage to tease up a much-needed bit of brisk romance between the ever-reliable Blunt and actor-machine Tom Cruise. The filmmakers busily mask plot holes by selectively — but not plausibly — withholding knowledge that Cage inexplicably maintains, but Rita does not, regarding their many shared re-born days together. Their overlapping time-loop vignettes don’t coalesce or gain momentum. Everything gets sloppy. The screenwriters snooze on developing the most important thread of the movie. The film’s permutating storyline is hardly worth the trouble as it begrudgingly leads up to an insignificant climax that leaves you glad Emily Blunt was in the movie. CV
Cole Smithey — The Smartest Film Critic in the World — has covered every aspect of world cinema since 1997. His reviews and video essays are archived online at www.ColeSmithey.com.