The Edge of Tomorrow One Word Review: Wow

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I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to steal Groundhog Day’s conceit of a man reliving the same day over and over again until he gets it “right.” Which I put in quotes because in Groundhog Day, “right” is shown to be a highly subjective concept. It’s about one man’s inner journey.

The Edge of Tomorrow is very much about one man’s outer journey, which journey, much to my surprise, makes for (mostly) a damn good movie. So: wow. The Edge of Tomorrow is a terrible name. The trailer, if you had the misfortune to see it, could not be less appealing. Why didn’t the studio advertise a fun, even funny, science fiction movie? Why did they make it resemble a run-of-the-mill, crappy sci-fi war flick? No one on earth liked the last Tom Cruise sci-fi flick, Oblivion. You’d think they’d want to show up what a different kind of movie this is.

Maybe they hate money?

Game over, man. I mean, no, game is now beginning, man.

Game over, man. I mean, no, game is now beginning, man.

The Edge of Tomorrow opens with news footage explaining earth’s dire situation: aliens landed five years ago in Germany and have since spread out over all of Europe, killing hundreds of millions. Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is a grinning TV talking-head whose job is making the army sound good. His new assignment: make the coming invasion of France—Operation Downfall (uh oh)—look inspiring. Only the general in charge (Brendan Gleeson) assigns Cage to land with the troops on the beach. Cage ain’t keen on fighting. He attempts to blackmail the general and gets himself tasered for his efforts. He wakes up at Heathrow, the take-off point for he invasion, busted down to a private.

Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton) tells him he’s in the first wave in the morning. And so it begins.

Oh, heck. I am so going to die now.

Oh, heck. I am so going to die now.

The attack in the morning is a disaster. The aliens, called Mimics, seem to know exactly what the army has planned. Speaking of whom, the aliens in this movie are awesome. How many summer action blockbusters have we sat through in how many years in which the aliens all look the same? With CGI, anything imaginable may be animated, yet we get the same tired ideas over and over again.

The Mimics are the coolest movie monsters in ages. They look sincerely, impossibly alien. They don’t make sense, they’re so alien. They’re scary and bizarre and unknowable. If this movie is remembered for nothing else, it should be remembered for the aliens. This is how it’s done, people. Take note.

You're going to want to take one step to the--oh, hell.

You’re going to want to take one step to the–oh, hell.

The soldiers die horribly on the beach. The Mimics are unstoppable. Cage stumbles around a bit, falls on his ass, and blows himself and an attacking Mimic to pieces. Its goopy blood eats away his face. But not before he sees bad-ass hero Rita Vrataski, AKA the Angel of Verdun (Emily Blunt), die horribly right before his eyes.

He wakes up at Heathrow. And everything happens again. He dies. He wakes up. It happens again. This time he manages to save Rita. She looks at him all funny like. Tells him to find her when he wakes up. “Huh?” he says, before dying again.

Of course Rita had the same thing happen to her at the famed Battle of Verdun (poor, long-suffering Verdun). I’ll leave you with some mystery regarding the how and the why, but it’s happening, and the Mimics are to blame. Like a video game, Cage has to learn from his mistakes and try and try again to get across the beachhead and find a way to destroy the Mimics.

Another day, another bullet in the head

Another day, another bullet in the head

This is surely the best video game movie ever made, though it’s not based on a video game (it comes from a Japanese book, All You Need Is Kill, by Hiroshi Sakurazaka) . It’s video game logic in action. What keeps it interesting is its pacing and its humor. Credit the many, many writers (the three credited are Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, but a lot of people had their fingers in this one) and director Doug Liman for giving what could have been plodding and grim a light touch with a lot of humor. Montages of Cage’s many ways of dying and of Rita shooting Cage in the head every time he screws up in training are, believe it or not, funny.

Also funny is Bill Paxton, channeling a certain vibe from his long-ago Aliens character (which movie would be a perfect double bill with Edge of Tomorrow).

Nothing will kill us here--oh, rats.

Nothing will kill us here–oh, rats.

Tom Cruise shows that this is the kind of movie he’s made for. He starts out weaselly and pathetic and learns to be a man by the end. There’s little in the way of psychological exploration in here, which I suppose the movie could be faulted for, but it just doesn’t have the time for it. One might think that living the same day hundreds if not thousands of times, a day spent first training for and then battling deadly aliens, a day where your one friend, a woman you might be falling for, dies every time through, would have a certain negative psychological impact. But no, this is not that movie.

Emily Blunt is excellent as the war hero. She imbues Rita with a depth of sadness. She’s seen horrible things, hundreds of times over, and it’s taken a toll. It’s a nice change to see a female character as the hardened vet and the male one as the inept fool she has to toughen up.

Do not bother the Angel of Verdun when she's doing yoga

Do not bother the Angel of Verdun when she’s doing yoga

Going back to the many, many writers, the problem with the script (or so I have read) was always its ending, and none of them solved it. The final section of the movie is a bit weak, and worst of all is the ending, so cheap and predictable you want to tear your hair out. Worst of all, it makes zero logical sense. In a typical crappy action movie, it’s the cheap ending I’d expect, but in here? In a good movie? It reeks of studio fear. Too bad.

A few other flaws in logic crop up, only one of which is glaring, and for that, frustrating. It’s a bit too spoilery to explain here, but if you see the movie, I’ll go into it in the comments.

So. Yes. The Edge of Tomorrow, the bland-looking new Tom Cruise sci-fi action movie, is worth your time and money, far more than any other blockbuster yet to come out this summer. If you’re only going to see one, this is it. Who would have thought?

15 responses on “The Edge of Tomorrow One Word Review: Wow

  1. I went in with low expectations and found it to be a blast. The ending was a bit of a letdown but its a really fun popcorn flick that doesn’t managing to stick the ending.

    What is the logic problem you found?

    • The beginning of the end. When he sticks himself with ‘the thing’ in the car. When it worked, she should have stopped the car and shot him immediately…that is, given that they’d even be in the car, which they wouldn’t. Why not stick it in his leg in the general’s office? And when it worked, bang! Shoot him dead, restart with new info, and a whole day and a night to complete the mission.

      Having him lose his power is a huge moment in this story. To have it occur out of stupidity and/or screenwriter convenience is not a good call. They should have been doing something necessary when it happened.

      • The big logical flaw I found? He never went into the training room, saw Rita, and said: today I’m taking off. Just let me sleep in the corner for eight hours and then shoot me in the head.

        Man all that looked exhausting.

        But I liked it too. Two characters. One villain-type thing that has no real personality. No sequel.

        • Right. It’s not the best thing ever. It’s just plain entertaining. It’s what these summer effects movies should be, at the least.

        • I don’t think that’s a logical flaw. There’s no reason to assume that he didn’t ever do that. That’s one thing that I think they did really well: They hinted at lots of things that he must have done, so we have to conclude that he experienced hundreds of days that we never say. They didn’t need to show us him taking some days off. We can assume he did. Maybe it would have added value to the movie if they had shown that, but that’s a different complaint.

      • Yeah, that was disappointing. But the biggest plot hole is this: When the mimics realize the humans have found the big brain thingy, why does that one alpha fight them? Why doesn’t it just commit suicide?

  2. I was almost completely adamant about dodging this one after watching the trailer and after getting so increasingly tired of that little man snapping up all SciFi roles. But after reading your review I have changed my mind so far as to be willing to watch it tonight. You guys better hold your breath and it better be good …

    • the morning after, I still recommend it. it succeeds at Summer Movie. not too deep, but not stupid either. and i enjoyed all of it, even the really stupid ending.

  3. Besides the dumb ending, I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a big action set piece (excepting the final assault scene, because it was more Flight of the Phoenix than Flight of the Osiris). Most of the action sequences were so short! Still, I give it a thumbs up. Thanks for the recommendation.

    • You are welcome. True, the one real action set piece is the beach, which we see parts of over and over again. In that regard, kind of strange. Maybe that’s why it’s not making any money at all. That or the fact that the trailer makes it look so bland.

      • I didn’t miss a series of escalating action set pieces. If I did, then I’d want to watch Man of Steel again and that’s the funniest thought I’ve had all week.

        What makes a film exhilarating isn’t set pieces. It’s character and story.

        Maybe it’s not making any money because Tom Cruise makes so many shitty movies? Just a thought.

        • I think an action film benefits from a standout fight scene. At least, my favorite ones seem always to have one or two memorable, coherent sequences. Maybe set piece is the wrong term, since I’m just talking about “good time action stuff,” not necessarily large scale or over-the-top. I think the prisoner transport chase in The Dark Knight, or the bank robbery in The Wild Bunch, or the tea house in Hardboiled, or the lobby sequence in The Matrix are what I mean. Hostage exchange in Lethal Weapon, hallway fight in Old Boy, ambush scene in 13 Assassins (ha ha).

          • The structure of the movie mostly prevents having that scene. It should have been the finale, which ended up being less than memorable. Before that, the beach landing is essentially the one set-piece, it’s just that it’s exploded out into something very different by having to repeat it.

  4. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to steal Groundhog Day’s conceit of a man reliving the same day over and over again until he gets it “right.”

    Did you see Source Code a few years back? Same premise but on a TRAIN.

  5. Finally saw it, and in glorious IMAX 3D at the Chinese. Really a lot of fun. I did not feel beaten over the head with stupid. Thanks for the reviews, guys, I wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

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