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EDGE OF TOMORROW… great, but ALL YOU NEED IS KILL is still a better title

Posted on July 16th, 2014
Posted on July 16th, 2014

by Coop Cooper

Taking place in the near future, the Earth’s United Defense Forces attempts to repel a invasion of alien machines nicknamed ‘mimics’ from the European mainland. A cowardly military bureaucrat, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise), is ripped from his cushy PR position after offending a commanding officer. Branded a deserter, demoted to private and thrust onto the front lines, Cage is promptly killed in the first battle. Instead of staying dead, Cage wakes up to find himself repeating the same day over and over again, only to be killed in the same battle every time. Using his foresight in battle, he saves the life of Rita (Emily Blunt), also known as the ‘Angel of Verdun’, a legendary soldier who learned her skills while trapped in a similar time loop. Rita recognizes Cage’s condition and resolves to train him to become the ultimate soldier so they can finally win the battle, close the time loop and change the outcome of the war.

The film does make some very nice homages, particularly to Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers which “Edge of Tomorrow” is almost an adaptation of – minus the time travel. This film features the same ‘power armor’ robotic suits present in Heinlein’s novel, but absent from the 1997 “Starship Troopers” film adaptation. It also tells a similar story of a green soldier fighting an alien horde whose skill reaches legendary proportions under the tutelage of a seasoned warrior and a dedicated platoon. Despite its similarities to Starship Troopers, “Tomorrow” was directly adapted from a Japanese novel titled All You Need is Kill, which I have noted before in this column, is a far superior title.

One complaint I’ve always had about recent, big budget sci-fi films involving robots is that in battle they usually end up looking like messy, spastic, giant tumbling balls of metal. The “Matrix” films started this trope, the “Transformer” films perpetuated it and this annoying battle robot design has also been seen in other films like “Skyline” and “Terminator: Salvation”. “Edge of Tomorrow” continues this tired cliché by making the alien machines literal ‘spastic giant tumbling balls of metal’. It seems like this is the most creative solution the people who handle the computer-generated special effects can come up with, especially when they have to interact with human actors who are actually fighting against thin air while on the set. I’m very tired of it, and I hope future projects will find new, more original alien/killer machine designs to work with.

The movie simulates what it’s like to live a real-life video game. You die, reset and try again but in games, the worst you’re going to experience from it is frustration. In this situation there is also constant pain and despair, something that is touched upon heavily in the story. The best of these heavy emotional parts happens when Cage, after growing weary of watching Rita get killed over and over again, decides to take a break and go AWOL for a day. On that break, he lives longer than usual… Long enough to see Paris get overrun and destroyed, reminding him why his dedication to dying everyday is so important. After that, his skills become so finely tuned, it’s amusing to watch him destroy aliens with so much ease especially in front of his Sergeant (Bill Paxton) and his platoon who can only gawk in amazement.

Cruise plays himself in just about every role now. He is always a competent action star and this film is yet another good example. Blunt is more surprising in her role as a tough, hardened warrior. The 2012 film “Looper” showed me she had a lot of potential as a dramatic actress, but I wasn’t prepared to see her as an action star. She outshines Cruise at every turn so if there is a performance to be savored, it is hers.

In comparing Tom Cruise movies, I prefer last year’s “Oblivion” to this one in terms of creativity, story and plot twists, but this one is also a competent and solid sci-fi film if not a completely original one.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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