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Tom Cruise vehicle is a solid, if not very inspired, summer blockbuster.
"Edge of tomorrow” is yet another Tom Cruise sci-fi action vehicle to add to the pile. At least once a year, we get a movie where Tom Cruise saves the world by running intensely towards the conclusion, at full sprint, blocking alien projectiles with a perfectly chiseled chin.
It’s easy to dismiss Tom Cruise films, especially if you find the actor himself a little distasteful. But there is no denying that in general, Tom Cruise films have a middling sort of quality that rarely makes them completely worthless. They are usually entertaining and well acted, even if the plots and characters are interchangeable.
“Edge of Tomorrow” belongs near the top of the Tom Cruise pile, due to an effective Harold Ramis storytelling style and several quality performances throughout the film. It’s a summer movie, one that falls apart with too much scrutiny, but good enough to keep an audience entertained for two hours. In essence, “Edge of Tomorrow” is a Tom Cruise #1 with a side of pop science, easily digestible—and quickly forgotten.
War has broken out across Europe. The aggressors are an alien invasion force, brought to the world by a Russian meteor. They are tentacled and fast, dubbed “mimics” by the movie’s protagonists, creatures that are neither biological nor mechanical but somewhere in the middle. They move so fast and attack so randomly, we never get much of a look at their actual shape.
There is a scene set in a London pub, where the locals discuss what the aliens might want with the planet, whether they desire our minerals, our water, or our oxygen. None of the answers are satisfactory and Cruise’s character manages to sum up the screenwriter’s opinion by saying “Does it matter? They’re here.”
He’s right, of course. As far as most films like this go, the story lies only in the defeat of the invaders. Like far too many science fiction monsters, these aliens are hive-minded, consisting of millions of individuals that are part of a single organism evolved to survive. They are pests to be exterminated, not a sentient species to be reasoned with. Why cloud a film with moral ambiguity when blowing things up is so satisfying? The aliens aren’t the point.
The point is the storytelling. Cage (Tom Cruise) is an officer in the U.S. military with the relatively simple job of selling the war to the Americans. He is visiting the general in charge of allied operations in London when he finds himself railroaded onto the front lines. During the science fiction equivalent of the Battle of Normandy, Cage is dropped into combat, where he promptly dies after an encounter with a big blue bad guy. Through movie magic, this gives Cage the power to relive the previous 24 hours.
Believe me, it is not a coincidence that the leading ladies in both the film “Groundhog Day” and “Edge of Tomorrow” are named Rita. “Edge of Tomorrow” might have well been called “Groundhog Day: Alien Fighter!”
Cage doesn’t have time to ice sculpt or learn the piano, however; he is tasked with finding the source of the aliens’ power and destroying it. This involves lots and lots of dying, usually in horrible ways, only to wake up the same spot as before. These deaths are the source of the film’s dark sense of humor—the film is funnier than one might expect. There is something satisfying about watching Cage die over and over again.
The film also owes much of its structure to video games. This is more a byproduct of modern filmmaking than overt intention. The look is a combination of games like “MechWarrior” and “Halo”, with bits of “Gears of War” and every other science fiction first-person shooter ever made.
The single save point at the beginning of the level is reminiscent of early Nintendo frustration. Gaming of my era was done through rote memorization and muscle memory. There is no quicksave in “Ghouls and Goblins” and “Edge of Tomorrow” follows the same rules.
Whether this amplifies the tension of the film or makes the movie repetitive is up for debate. I’d say the management of the plot structure is one of the film’s best features. The story never feels forced or dull.
“Edge of Tomorrow” is summer blockbuster filmmaking at its utmost. There’s not much to think about, but it’s worth a matinee, especially if you’re a Tom Cruise fan. Tempered expectations will make for a solid moviegoing experience.