Edge of Tomorrow

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Doug Liman

Starring

Emily Blunt Noah Taylor Tom Cruise

Anticipation.

Another glossy sci-fi vehicle for the Cruiser.

Enjoyment.

This one ain’t half bad. But it’s still some distance from being good.

In Retrospect.

Shirks its responsibility to be about anything. Still, decent fun.

A weedy Crusier is dropped into a time-switching sci-fi set-up, with undeniably interesting results.

It’s a cryin’ shame, because Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow is a gnat’s whisker away from being a pretty damn decent movie. Robust. Like a second-hand Volvo. One lady owner. Having worked through its central concept to the point where it can rightfully get frisky, it hints towards an interlocked tragedy of earth-shattering (i.e. humane) proportions. But, another, more stock tragedy surfaces, and the long, straight path to mediocrity is taken with bothersome gusto. It is the film’s ultimate curse: genre.

That is to say, reflex expectation means that there’s only one way this film can end, and it duly concedes to any and all predetermined notions. It even boasts a coda which is the cinematic equivalent of being swaddled in a pre-warmed, extra-soft blue blanky. Plus, it’s a film which goes out of its way to simplify a potentially complex structure, and while that helps to keep the pace up, it means that anything remotely strange (read: interesting) is explained away with toadying rapidity.

The future, and the planet has been besieged by an alien race known as Mimics. Bizarrely, the nomenclature has no obvious logic to it, as these creatures don’t appear to be mimicking anything, except lightning-quick cephalopod versions of Tetsuo: The Iron Man. Tom Cruise plays a lily-livered army deserter… Repeat: Tom Cruise plays a lily-livered army deserter who, somewhat inevitably, manages to overcome his fears and, well, you know the rest…

But the concept is interesting, borrowing its narrative chassis from Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day, engine from Back to the Future, shell from Source Code and all the optional extras from any old clapped out space alien shoot-em-up you care to name. Afflicted with the ability to relive the same day over-and-over, La Cruise must take the entire war effort onto his not immodest shoulders and discover the permutation which results victory. Added lipsmacking prospect: each failed attempt leads to his violent death.

Far from mining the melancholy prospect of time’s passage being reduced to a cyclical spiral, Edge of Tomorrow in fact plays like the ultimate video game tribute movie, in that Liman recreates the experience of a character losing lives ad infinitum and being instantly revivified until the job is done and the final boss is obliterated. In the process, he has the occasional bit of fun, living out the audience’s every fantasy by casting Cruise as a kind of human pin-cushion and having him, say, ground to a shiny-toothed mulch by the wheels of a Humvee.

Yet, the film doesn’t quite encroach on the territory of self-depreciation, as Cruise always seems to perish just out of shot or at the moment of a hard cut. This can be explained away by the time-travel plot mechanic, but it serves to distance the film further from being about anything of real substance. There’s a beautiful shot at the mid-point, in which she-bitch help-meet, Emily Blunt, dies in front of Tom’s eyes for the umpteenth time, and the camera lingers on here sallow, comatose face for a few beats. It’s a shame, as the film continues in a manner which suggests Liman thought the painful acceptance of mortality was the throwaway nugget, while the thematic heft is mined from killing space aliens.

That moment – that tiny flicker – does give Cruise’s mission a scintilla of credibility, as it marks the point where his eternally arduous efforts are less focused towards saving the faceless masses, and more about how he is now out to preserve the life of this lone angel. It’s superior genre fare, but manages to elude greatness due to Liman’s constantly muffed direction and its failure to see the real tragedy that’s right in front of its eyes.

Published 29 May 2014

Tags: Emily Blunt Tom Cruise

Anticipation.

Another glossy sci-fi vehicle for the Cruiser.

Enjoyment.

This one ain’t half bad. But it’s still some distance from being good.

In Retrospect.

Shirks its responsibility to be about anything. Still, decent fun.

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