I saw Edge of Tomorrow last weekend. I know it’s been out a month already and there’s already been a lot written about it. Whatever, I don’t care. I want to write about. And this is my blog so I can do whatever I want (within reason, of course). Are we clear? Good, moving on.
When the fuck did Tom Cruise become our most reliable sci-fi star? Seriously, think about his output over the past 15 years or so. Starting in 2001 with Vanilla Sky he’s starred in (or been part of the impetus for) some of the best science fiction that’s been released in theaters. Let’s look at the output, shall we?
Vanilla Sky (2001): Based on the Spanish film Abre Los Ohos and directed by Cameron Crowe, this is a mindfuck of a film that works until the too-clean ending. I prefer it, personally, to the Spanish version because of Cruise’s charismatic and somewhat ballsy performance. But as a science fiction film, it does an excellent job of playing with audience expectations and bringing you into the mind of such a confused character. The ending is pretty bad, true, but if it wasn’t explained that everything after he woke up in the alleyway was part of his dream (Spoiler alert for a 13 year old film) audiences probably would have gone nuts trying to figure it out.
Minority Report (2002): Everything about this film is great. The technology, the world-building, the performances, the ideas of precognition and how that affects the law. It all works. I think most people would agree that this is a modern science fiction classic.
War of the Worlds (2005): Another effort with Spielberg and one I’ve already glowed about.
Oblivion (2013): What most impressed me about Oblivion was the immediacy of it. The world-building is strong, the twist is not, but the immediacy of the character’s plight and the sense of danger I got while Cruise’s character, Jack, faced off against the drones made the movie for me. Probably the weakest movie on this list, but still a pretty good sci-fi film overall.
And now we get to Edge of Tomorrow. It currently sits at 90% “Fresh” at Rottentomatoes, so I feel safe in saying that the film is generally well-liked. There were three things that stood out to me about the film: 1.) Ideas – this movie had a few that struck a chord with me; 2.) Feel; and 3.) Technical proficiency.
Ideas: Once the movie began to explore the more emotional aspects of its premise I became more invested. The movie is fun and the first half of it is devoted to having fun with the idea that when Cruise’s character, Cage, dies his timeline gets reset to a certain point. There are two main ideas that I latched onto here; the first is the idea of being stuck in this loop forever. There comes a point in the film where Cage seems to be seriously burnt out and on the precipice of giving up. We never get a sense of how many times he’s reset (one of the films more genius turns) but we do get the sense that it’s a lot. It adds to the feeling that the threat he’s facing is unbeatable.
The second idea Edge of Tomorrow plays with is how many times you can witness someone you care about being killed (even if you know they’ll be fine after the reset) before you can’t take it anymore. Cage begins to hide information from his partner, Emily Blunt’s Rita, because it becomes too hard for him to continually lose her. She mentions a similar idea earlier in the film, as well, when she talks about her experience being stuck in a loop. It’s an interesting concept and adds an emotional weight to the proceedings that helps to connect with the audience.
Feel: Others have said it, but this movie is the best video game adaptation ever made. Shame it’s not based on a video game. While watching I felt like I was back in my old apartment, watching my roommate play Xbox and die over and over again, getting just a little better each time. It was an interesting experience to sit in a theater and feel that way.
Technical Proficiency: The feel being what it was, I was worried that I would get bored partway through the movie because of all the resets. But, luckily, the writing and editing were spot-on. There are several scenes we see more than once, but because they’re approached from a different perspective or Cage is trying a different angle, they always feel fresh. There are also several times when we’re just dropped into the middle of a scene under the assumption we get what Cage has already gone through to get that far. It’s the correct assumption and really helps the pace of the film.
In all I hope that anyone who gets a chance to see Edge of Tomorrow does so. It strikes a delicate balance of concept, humor, action, character, and idea – not an easy feat. I’m sure I’ll be seeing it again soon enough.