Edge of Tomorrow: Crap Title, Great Blockbuster!

ALL YOU NEED IS KILL

What would you get if you blended Groundhog Day with military sci-fi of the alien invasion variety? First you’d get the Japanese novel, All You Need is Kill, then you’d get the westernized Tom Cruise vehicle, Edge of Tomorrow (which would have kept its unique, imaginative, original title instead of its current, homogenized one if the movie wasn’t PG-rated).

Major William Cage (Cruise) is a cocky, PR flack who has persuaded millions to join the armed forces to fight the aliens who have invaded the planet (they’re referred to as ‘Mimics’ without much explanation). Called into the office of General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), Cage is appalled to discover that he’s going to be embedded with troops about to attack the aliens – who have conquered all of Europe and have to be stopped before they can expand beyond there.

Cage tries to get out of the assignment – even stooping to blackmail, but his efforts backfire and the next thing you know, he’s waking up in the staging area for the coming effort. Worse, he’s been busted to private, been labelled a deserter and stuck with the particularly peculiar J Squad.

EDGE OF TOMORROW

Five minutes after the battle begins, he dies – but not before taking out a blue-ish Mimic. Then he wakes up back at the moment he awoke in the staging area. It doesn’t take him long to figure out what’s going on, but convincing hardass Sergeant-Major Farrell (Bill Paxton) is another story. After several loops, he meets Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the soldier with the highest kill rate in the military – labelled the Full Metal Bitch by her compatriots. And she seems to know what’s going on with him.

The film takes the body armor of the novel – devised because human beings are, physically, no match for the invaders – and turns it into an exoskeleton, probably because the gear in the novel would make it impossible to tell who was wearing it. Also, it has to seem like something that wouldn’t require much training to use (again, unlike the novel where it took six months of boot camp to use it well enough to stand even a snowball’s chance of survival).

Written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) and Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (Fair Game), Edge of Tomorrow takes the core events/plot of the Japanese novel and moves the action halfway around the world. There’s a very different ending, though it works with the tone of the movie in a way the original wouldn’t have (though the original ending is terrific – and I still want to see that movie!).

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The script combines its odd mix with style and Doug Liman directs with his usual kinetic energy. Limon also makes excellent use of humor (some of the loops result in big laughs) and, more importantly, knows when to lay off it. The 3D was also pretty spiffy.

Cruise does utterly convincing transformations from cocky/weasely PR flack to complete coward to hero in a remarkably short amount of time (113 minutes) – it’s an unexpectedly compelling performance because this is a movie where Cruise could have devoted himself to the action (as only he can do) and just done enough to get by elsewhere. Instead, he turns in work that matches the best of his career.

Emily Blunt works beautifully as Rita Vrataski – precisely because she’s the least likely action hero (in the book, the Full Metal Bitch is actually a tiny woman away from her combat ‘jacket’). She has solid chemistry with Cruise and between them they make a formidable team onscreen. It’s easy to buy into Cage and Vrataski’s relationship – even if she has no idea there is one.

The audience at the screening I attended was loudly appreciative. On the Big Drink Scale, I had almost half of my large drink left when the credits began to roll.

Edge of Tomorrow is not just a terrific blockbuster, it’s a smart, involving movie. Words like ‘spectacular’ and ‘awesome’ might be seen as hyperbole elsewhere, but here they are accurate.

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Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers