Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
If you’re looking for a fresh and original cinematic outing in a summer packed full of sequels and superheroes, you need look no further than Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise’s latest sci-fi blockbuster is a surprisingly clever, unique and brilliant tale of warfare and alien invasion.
The plot involves a global conflict against an extraterrestrial force who have dominated much of mainland Europe and are slowly laying siege to the entire planet. In an unexpected twist of fate, the only hope of saving humanity lies with reluctant front line recruit, Major William Cage (Cruise), who finds himself caught in a seemingly inexplicable time loop.
Time travel and alien invasions may seem like they’ve been done to death, but Edge of Tomorrow manages to craft itself as a refreshingly original and intelligent spin on both genres. The plot is fascinating, gripping and well paced.
Despite the story centring around a man who finds himself living the same day over and over again, the proceedings remain unpredictable throughout. While the movie ran the risk of becoming repetitive and frustrating by resetting events each time a new loop begins, it instead uses this device to maintain suspense, successfully defying the expectations set by the nature of its plot.
The special effects and creature designs are stunning. The aliens, in look and nature, are both interesting and unique. We’re not dealing with your standard humanoid invaders descending from the heavens in spaceships. The enemy here are organisms sporting a very unsettling appearance and they come across as both menacing and threatening. It all makes for some thrilling battlefield encounters.
The movie’s action scenes are incredible. The clashes between friend and foe that we’re treated to are exciting as well as impressively realistic and graphic. A major set piece involves a huge beach battle showcasing some extremely gritty scenes of warfare and terror.
For a film about a conflict with otherworldly antagonists, it illustrates the horrors of modern warfare unsettlingly well. Setting aside what the enemy is, the carnage shown onscreen seems like a very real demonstration of what it must be like to be on the front lines of an active war zone. The great success of Edge of Tomorrow’s action is the fact that it takes place in a very earthly and familiar setting. There isn’t an abundance of futuristic technology. It all looks and feels very contemporary and closer to science fact than science fiction which raises the tension significantly.
As with any movie of this sort though, the visual aspect only manages to be more than mere eye candy if there is a well developed human element and that is certainly the case here. There is also quite a bit of cultural diversity amongst the military characters owed to the fact that it is an international coalition involved in the fight. It’s a relief to watch an alien invasion movie where there’s a strong sense of an international military effort rather than just a sense of America saving the world.
While there are quite a few different characters involved in the story, it very much revolves around those played by Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. Both actors bring their characters to life in contrasting and likable ways and generate great on screen chemistry together. The movie really hinges on these two individuals being people we want to root for and thankfully they succeed greatly in being just that.
Cruise’s Major William Cage undergoes some very thorough character development as the story unfolds. Rather than being introduced as the archetypal hero, when we first meet Cage he is nothing but a military PR man who would rather hear stories of the war from Washington than witness the horror first hand on the European front lines.
As he finds himself experiencing the same day over and over again though, he slowly begins to accept that to escape his fate he will first have to embrace it and put his fears behind him. As time continues to repeat itself, we witness Cage gradually evolve from pathetic coward to competent hero, becoming a character worthy of rooting for in the process. His development is very well written and executed. The transition is helped along by the relationship he is forced to build with Emily Blunt’s Rita Vrataski.
Vrataski is a no nonsense, battle hardened combat veteran and the poster girl for the war effort. She is the absolute antithesis of how Cage starts out. Due to her success on the battlefield, she has become something of a celebrity in the struggle against the invaders. There is more to Vrataski than meets the eye though and she unwittingly finds herself a guide and motivator for Cage through his ordeal.
Blunt slips into the role of action heroine effortlessly with Vrataski, serving as a very different but easily as likable secondary protagonist to Cruise’s Cage. She plays the stern and guarded military type well and Vrataski gradually lets her guard down as the plot progresses and Cage learns how to lighten her up a bit more. Blunt and Cruise work very well together and create a sort of odd couple partnership that is fun to watch and acts as the backbone of the entire film.
The rest of the cast serve more of a peripheral function to Cruise and Blunt. Brendan Gleeson plays the general who sends Cage to the battlefield in the first place. His character highlights the cultural diversity of the war campaign by having the man overseeing the front lines being Irish rather than American or British.
Then there’s J-Squad, the group of soldiers with attitude problems that Cage is assigned to. J-Squad aren’t unlike the marines from Aliens and while they provide some occasional comic relief, their role isn’t particularly substantial or as crucial as it could have been. When it comes to characters, this movie very much belongs to Cage and Vrataski.
Overall then, this is the most unique and intriguing science fiction movie that has come along in years. The time loop device never makes the story feel repetitive or tiring. The action and warfare have a gritty, realistic vibe that keeps a somewhat outlandish sounding plot very much grounded in reality. It’s all brought together by strong lead performances from Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt resulting in good dramatic tension and suspense. Edge of Tomorrow is the best original big budget blockbuster that you’re likely to see this year and you’ll probably be surprised by how much you love it.
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