Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Doug Liman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor, Kick Gurry, Jonas Armstrong, Tony Way, Franz Drameh, Dragamir Mrsic.
Like him or hate him, there is no denying that Tom Cruise has good commercial instincts that have rarely let him down. Vanilla Sky was a rare failure, but it allowed him to work with director Cameron Crowe, and Knight And Day was a routine action comedy that hardly stretched his talents. And Cruise seems to have found a niche for himself in special effects heavy sci-fi action thrillers of late with Steven Spielberg’s ambitious Minority Report and the more recent visually stunning but bleak dystopian tale Oblivion. And Cruise has also been engaged in the war of the worlds with alien invaders and the fate of the Earth at stake before. But his latest venture in the genre is a high concept sci-fi action film that puts a new spin on the whole alien invasion end of the world scenario, and is one of his better screen outings.
Edge Of Tomorrow is based on the 2004 graphic novel All You Need Is Kill written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and seems like something of a bold cross between Groundhog Day, Duncan Jones’ superior but mindbending Source Code and Starship Troopers. Sakurazaka is a former video game programmer, and his material has something of the video game sensibility about its structure. But the lean script from Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, Jack Reacher, etc) and Jez Butterworth and his younger brother John Henry (Fair Game, etc) makes for one of the better sci-fi action films of recent years, deftly mixing brawn and brains. The director is Doug Liman, who proved himself adept at pulse pounding action thrillers with his reboot of The Bourne Identity, and he keeps things moving along at a fast pace that doesn’t really give audiences much time to ponder the logic of it all until after the final credits have finished rolling. A willing suspension of disbelief is also required.
Set in a not too distant future, an alien race of fearsome creatures known as mimics have slowly been conquering Europe and are about to take their invasion across the Channel to England. These mimics are nasty creatures indeed – these hive-like creature resemble furball critters but have vicious tentacles that slash and kill and sport rapacious teeth and emerge from beneath the earth. The United Defence Force are mounting a last ditch invasion (similar in size and logistics to the D-Day landings seventy years ago). But these mimics have the ability to predict future actions, and the landing is destined to become a slaughter.
Enter Lieutenant Colonel William Cage (Cruise), a cocky but cowardly PR officer who is supposed to help promote the forthcoming landings as a heroic venture rather than the folly it becomes. But after a disagreement with the commanding officer General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), Cage finds himself demoted and sent off to be part of the landing force under the command of the sarcastic Farell (Bill Paxton). The landing is a disaster with the allied troops wiped out within minutes of landing. Cage himself is killed. But then he wakes up and relives the same hellish day over again. And again…
Caught in a time loop Cage slowly begins to learn from what has happened in each time reset and is able to develop strategies to help give him and the allied forces an advantage over the mimics. And so it goes until in one of his resets he meets Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the most highly decorated soldier in the allied forces, who has a reputation for killing hundreds of the so-called mimics and who has become the figurehead for the struggle against the alien forces. She helps Cage understand how to use his special gift and the pair work together to try and locate the head mimic and kill it, thus saving humanity.
There are some great special effects here that are seamlessly incorporated into the action. The nearly invincible alien creatures are truly a horrific bunch, and kudos go to the special effects designers who have created them. The battle sequences are also quite brutal and at times reminiscent of the opening of Saving Private Ryan. But they are executed with flair by Liman. Dion Beebe’s wide screen cinematography also adds to the pleasures of the film. There is also a 3D version of the film, and the 3D effects are used sparingly but effectively in the chaotic battle scenes.
McQuarrie and Liman have laced the action with generous doses of humour, much of it delivered by Cruise’s laconic character as he dies many times over and then relives each day again and again, surprising his colleagues with his intimate knowledge of them and their quirks. Liman and his editors James Herbert and Laura Jennings also use clever montage sequences effectively to take advantage of the concept and to ease audiences into the idea and make it credible.
There is great chemistry between Cruise and Blunt. Cruise is eminently likeable here and tones down some of his usual mannerisms to deliver a more nuanced performance as the reluctant hero. He has a fine time here as the reluctant soldier who becomes a hero despite himself, injecting doses of humour into his performance. Blunt (from The Devil Wears Prada, etc) has a much more physical role here and she acquits herself well in the rare role of action heroine who kicks alien butt. But she also manages to bring a touch of vulnerability to her tough as nails character, making her more three dimensional.
Australian actors Noah Taylor and Kick Gurry (Looking For Alibrandi, etc) pop up in small roles and bring a bit of down under humour to the film. Paxton is also good as the disbelieving and sceptical Farell and he brings a hard nosed quality to his performance.