Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise plays a weatherman forced to live out the same day over and over again during an alien invasion of Earth in Edge of Tomorrow.

I may have mixed that up a little.

Edge of Tomorrow is a sci-fi action movie that takes the plot of Ivan Retiman's revered romcom Groundhog Day and says, "What if living out the same day over and over again allowed you to save the world!"? It's actually not that big a stretch from the original, though this movie has very little in common beyond this gimmick and some of the circumstances that arise from the situation.

Also, out of necessity, the power to reset the day has severe limitations, else you'd have no possibility of tension for the third act.

What's most surprising about this film, actually, is that it's very, very good. In spite of being a big budget action flick. In spite of being a time-travel movie. In spite of starring Tom Cruise.

I kid. Cruise is generally fine as an action hero. Usually he's doing the same role, though, so he doesn't stretch his acting chops much, of which he seems to have at least some modicum (see Rain Man, Magnolia).

One of the ways this movie exceeds expectations is by giving Cruise a deeper role. At the beginning of the film, he's a glib, abject coward lacking any sort of morality. This turns into a more traditional action hero role later on, but the character arc makes this feel satisfying, giving us a sense of how real life military men go from being average joes to hardened warriors.

In addition, his character changes much the way Bill Murray's does in Groundhog Day, in the sense that he gains a depth of feeling for characters who don't really know or like him. What's more, despite the virtually mandatory save-the-world motif, director Doug Liman keeps things tight and light, with the action mostly being local rather than awash in ruins of cities and what-not.

Frequent Cruise collaborator Christopher McQuarrie (Valkyrie, Jack Reacher) co-wrote the script with frequent Liman collaborators Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, and whatever the reason, this seems to have worked out extraordinarily well.

The Flower liked it, though she felt the denouement was cheap. I could see her point and I saw it coming, but at the same time, I wasn't sure it was going to play out the way it did, so I was relatively happy with it.

The Boy also liked, and was pleased with the relatively small amount of goofy action/war tropes, like the super-moves performed by Emily Blunt, who seems to have an uncanny ability to fight the aliens—an ability which, once you learn what's going on, does not in fact make any sense.

But there's a lot about this movie that doesn't make sense if you think about it, or is at least unanswered. To a degree this is handled by keeping things moving enough to where you don't have a lot of time to think about it, which is common enough these days. Better, though, is that it doesn't try too hard to offer an explanation. The movie gives you just enough of a back story to give you the hook, but not so much that you start thinking, "Well, if that's the case, then why don't they just blah blah blah?"

Movies are not the best vehicle for presenting plausible alien invasions.

Brendan Gleeson and Bill Paxton have small but fun supporting roles.

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