Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Director: Doug Liman                                       Writers: Christopher McQuarrie & Jez Butterworth
Film Score: Christophe Becke                          Cinematography: Dion Beebe
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson

There’s a strange trend turning up in a lot of new Hollywood films, and that’s the "Stone Soup" approach to filmmaking. In today’s artistic world of vacuous unoriginality, from songs to novels to films, the place that modern cinema gets its “new” ideas from is the cinema of old. My previous run-ins with this trend were Super 8 and The Island. The most recent culprit is Edge of Tomorrow. Like a pitch straight out of The Player, it would go something like this: Groundhog Day meets Aliens meets Saving Private Ryan meets The Matrix. It’s just that original. Doug Liman was the director of the first Bourne film, The Bourne Identity, as well as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith, while screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie had worked with Tom Cruise previously on Valkyrie and Jack Reacher, as well as writing the much earlier film, The Usual Suspects. This film is based on a Japanese science-fiction novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka called All You Need is Kill, an incredibly juvenile affair that is tailor made for today’s multiplex mentality. And yet, I did enjoy it. Go figure.

The film begins with a meteor crash in Europe that has unleashed robotic aliens, reminiscent of the sentinels in The Matrix, called mimics who have taken over most of the continent. The Russians and Chinese are barely keeping them at bay in the East while the Western powers prepare to invade France from Great Britain, à la D-Day in Saving Private Ryan. The only way to fight them is to wear robotic suits that were inspired by the loaders in Aliens and then modified for The Matrix Reloaded. Tom Cruise plays a U.S. Army major doing public relations for the war effort. Head of the Western allies is general Brendan Gleeson who wants Cruise to do a report from the front lines in France. When he refuses on the grounds that he’s never been in combat, and attempts to blackmail the general into not going, he is arrested and finds himself waking up on a London military base stripped of rank and branded a deserter. He tries to tell sergeant Bill Paxton that there’s been a mistake, but he’s outfitted with a battle suit and dropped onto the beach the next morning. The aliens knew they were coming and it’s a bloodbath. Cruise manages to stay alive for several minutes, however, until a very different looking mimic shows up and wipes out his entire squad. Cruise kills the mimic with a mine, but it winds up killing him too. That is, until he wakes up back at the military base the day before.

It’s Groundhog Day, again. After coming to terms with what is happening, Cruise goes back in the next day, and dies, and the next day, and dies again. Gradually he gets a little better each time, until one day he’s able to save Emily Blunt, a famous veteran of the alien war. But then she does something very strange. She tells him to find her when he wakes up again, and then allows them both to die. He does, and together they attempt to beat the aliens. It’s an odd mix of ideas from several films that, while certainly entertaining, is about as unoriginal as they come. Cruise, of course, plays Tom Cruise as only he can. He’s older now, lean and more fragile. But it’s fun to watch him struggle. Doug Liman pulls out the same kind of montages that Harold Ramis used in Groundhog Day to show the passage of time and the learning of skills, but instead of an alarm clock to indicate the new day, Blunt usually winds up shooting Cruise in the head. If Cruise manages to stay alive until the next day, the days will stop repeating and the war will be lost. Emily Blunt does a nice job reprising Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 and Bill Paxton is actually terrific in his repetitive role as a cigar-chewing Southern sergeant. Though utterly unoriginal, Edge of Tomorrow has enough humor and a quirky charm of its own that fans of Cruise and Blunt should enjoy. Purists, however, be warned.

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