Sunday, June 8, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow: A Timeless Tale of Redemption, Karma, & Fate

Edge of Tomorrow - Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt | A Constantly Racing Mind
T om Cruise ("Oblivion," "War of the Worlds") shines brightly in Doug Liman's adaptation of  Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s light novel, "All You Need Is Kill," titled appropriately "Edge of Tomorrow."  Emily Blunt's ("The Adjustment Bureau," "Looper') star shines as just as brightly without either one diminishing the other.  Director Doug Liman's ("The Bourne Identity," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") direction bring the characters and the battles up close and personal, along with the themes of redemption, karma, and fate.  "Edge of Tomorrow" is a surprisingly good film that incorporates various Sci-Fi tropes, clever story narrative, stylish  Sci-Fi technology all used to do one thing, and it does it very well; "Edge of Tomorrow" is very entertaining.  Bill Paxton ("Aliens," "Twister") co-stars as Master Sergeant Farell and Brendan Gleeson ("28 Days Later," "Cold Mountain") plays General Brigham head of the British UDF.  Just seven minutes shy of two hours of blown action and humor, "Edge of Tomorrow" is rated PG-13.

Typical of Alien Invasion films, we open to television screens tuned to various news channels with talking heads describing the dire situation raging behind them.  Most of Europe is under siege, and pretty much wiped out.  The Mimics, a squiddy looking hybrid of the sentinels from "The Matrix" and the late H.R. Geiger's nightmare creature of Ridley Scott's 1979 Sci-Fi horror classic "Alien."  At this point, we meet Major William Cage (Cruise), Public Relations Officer for the United States’ United Defense Force (UDF).  He is promoting the UDF's new battle gear.  The gear is essentially an exoskeleton, both armor and weapon, the idea is right out of "Aliens" (think the heavy lifter scene between Ripley and the Creature) or something from "Avatar.”  The soldiers call them jackets and they can make a new recruit into a super soldier almost immediately.  At least that is what Cage is espousing. 

While it is an honor General I am afraid I'm going to have to decline.  I can't stand the sight of blood, not so much as a paper cut!  -- Major William Cage 

Edge of Tomorrow - Brenden Gleeson as General Brigham | A Constantly Racing Mind

We find the world and ourselves in a last ditch offensive in the hopes of keeping the Mimics from spreading off the European continent.  In some ways, Tom Cruise plays a variation of the same character as he embarks on the hero's journey.  His characters typically evolve through the story and find a certain sense self-awareness and self-respect.  While not the typical cocky ass that he played in "Top Gun," nor is he the self-assured team leader in the "Mission Impossible" films, he is in fact as coward without the sense to know when to keep his mouth shut.  On loan to the British UDF under the command of General Brigham (Gleeson), Cage thinks he is there to act as Brigham's PR man to give him  a better image in the eyes of the public in the light of the fact that the war isn't going well.  That is not the case.  Brigham wants to embed Cage with the troops as they make their landing on the shores of Normandy the next day.  Tom Cruise is good at playing these parts.  There is one thing Tom Cruise is not afraid of, and that is taking a risk.  Cage, like Henry Fleming from the "Red Badge of Courage" wants to run from his first battle.  Cage tells the general pretty much that he wants no part of any battles, blood, or death.  Before the war, Cage owned a PR company, and is not a in any way a soldier, yet he wears the uniform.  While leaving the office, the General has him arrested and tazed. 

Battle’s the great redeemer.  A fiery crucible in which the only true heroes are forged.  -- Master Sergeant Farell

Edge of Tomorrow - Pvt Bill Cage on his first drop | A Constantly Racing Mind

He wakes up the next day to find himself shanghaied and now a part of J Company.  Master Sergeant Farell (Paxton) is there to greet him and escort the deserting private to his new billet.  Although minor roles both Gleeson and Paxton do their parts in repressing Cruise’s character as he develops throughout the film.  They both do an excellent job as comic relief throughout the film.  In spite of pleas that he is not a private but a major, Farell ignores him and introduces him to the people he will jump with tomorrow.  Being that "Edge of Tomorrow" officially opened in the United States on June 6, 2014 -- the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the Allied forces landing on the beaches of Normandy or that this war has already raged in Europe the war references abound.  UDF Special Forces Sergeant Rita Vrataski's (Blunt) face is plastered on the side of a bus with the tag The Angel of Verdun painted in red, as it drives by Cage the first day and every day that he wakes up.  She was the hero of the Battle of Verdun (not the one in WWI mind you) and the face of victory for the UDF.  Upon meeting his comrades for the first time, MS Farell catches them in the middle of a card game.  The Sargent compels the soldiers (co-ed) to eat a card from the deck.  Why?  Because he doesn't believe in gambling and that, each soldier is in charge of their own fate.  On his first jump, Bill Cage is scared as he suits up, in battle gear he has never worn before, he is scared as is yelling above the din of his plane being torn apart, WHERE'S THE SAFETY.  Bill Cage is scared as he drops onto the beach with J Company.  And he is scared when  his comrades die all around him.  He sees Vrataski moments after her plane crashes and she emerges and then is killed in an explosion.  Bill Cage is scared when he finally figures out how to turn off the safety and kill a few Mimics.  Bill Cage dies on the battlefield that day, but not without killing an Alpha Mimic whose blood is mixed with Cages as they both die.  Bill Cage wakes up, stuck in a time loop, he begins anew.

Fighting an enemy who knows the future, who can reset the day and learn from their enemy, is one that is impossible to beaten, that is the key to "Edge of Tomorrow."  The Mimics are perfectly evolved, world-conquering organisms.  Much like the bugs in Paul Verhoeven’s "Starship Troopers,” the Mimics have a hive mentality.  The power of the Mimics is now an ability that Cage now has and not sure what to do with it.  Not unlike "Groundhog Day," or "Source Code," Cage is able to change events as he progresses from a raw recruit to a battle-hardened warrior.  After meeting Vrataski on the battlefield, he convinces her that he has already fought this battle many times.  She too once had the ability to "reset" the day but now that is gone.  "Find me when you wake up," she says right before an explosion kills her.  

Edge of Tomorrow - Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farell | A Constantly Racing Mind

Part of the hero's journey is the training sessions.  This is where the protagonist learns the skills he will need to defeat the enemy.  At this time, we learn that the Mimics have a device that they use to reset the day and it is called the Omega.  Similar to "Galaxy Quest's" Omega 13 sphere, this one doesn't just go back 13 seconds.  This becomes the focus of the rest of the film, to destroy it.  While these scenes between Blunt and Cruise are essential to the building of their characters, they provide for much humor as Cruise's character dies in so many ironic and comical ways.  Like Wile E. Coyote, being killed many times in a single "Road Runner" cartoon, Cage endures the deaths, mostly by Vrataski at the end of her pistol as she "resets" him. 

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -- Albert Einstein

Death is not funny, and the film doesn't make light of this fact.  Actually, director Doug Liman has the audience reflect on this aspect not only as Cage dies multiple times, but in how he shows us death from Vrataski's point of view.  This is not a love story, not truly, but there is a complex bond between the two characters grows deep as each iteration of the day progresses.  Each time learning something more about Rita, Bill begins to find it hard for him to see her die time and time again.  It is as if you were immortal and had to watch generations upon generations of your kin die as you live on.  Liman gives a little more story each time Cage dies until a sobering truth comes out; Cage cannot change the future.  Somewhere near the middle of the film Bill cage has an epiphany when he sees Rita day again.  Knowing that he a Rita can only battle to a certain point, and she will die no matter what he does, he changes his complete strategic view.  His intentions are no longer to keep Rita alive, his goal is never to know her, but he does.  If you can't win a battle, don't go to war.  Fighting his way off the beach repeatedly gets him the same result, Rita's death, and no chance at victory. 

Edge of Tomorrow - Bill and Rita | A Constantly Racing Mind

The battle sequences, although not as intense as "Saving Private Ryan," are impressive.  Planes dropping from the sky in marvelous CG, explosions to the left of Cage, Mimics to the right, there he stands in the middle of the carnage.  Liman's use of hand-held close-ups gives the beach scenes that personal feeling.  Doug Liman is aware that audience’s time is valuable, and doesn't waste it in gratuitous Tom Cruise death scenes or unnecessary violence.  Each beautifully photographed scene advances the story along to a conclusion, but not the one you are imagining.  Emily Blunt doesn't have a whole lot of lines in this film.  She is Cage's trainer, his motivation, and the reason for the self-respect he gains near the end of the film.  This is Emily Blunt's third Science Fiction film and each time her roles become more involved and complex.  In the Sci-Fi genre, her character's relationship as a romantic interest develops with each film as well. 

Composer Christophe Beck's musical portfolio contains mostly comedies such as "Muppets Most Wanted," "R.I.P.D.," "The Hangover,"  and "Frozen," does an excellent job if augmenting the battles and setting the mood for the more quieter scenes.  James Herbert's clean editing and urgent pacing brings out the best of Cinematographer's Dion Beebe excellent visuals.  

Edge of Tomorrow - Alpha Mimic | A Constantly Racing Mind

Tom Cruise at 51 is still an excellent actor.  He is able to do both comedies, develop a character throughout his arc, and still make it seem natural and believable.  Emily Blunt is now a Sci-Fi veteran who has previously been in two of my more favorite Sci-Fi films.  Her work in the genre is still taking off and I am hoping to see more of her in this genre.  Bill Paxton is a far cry from Pvt. Hudson when the armor and gear were not quite so technologically advanced as they are in this film.  Brendon Gleeson's portrayal of the General embodies the oxymoron "military intelligence."  Fast paced, fun, cinematically interesting, and thematically clever and smart, "Edge of Tomorrow" is worth a ticket price to see on the big screen as well as purchasing on Blu-ray or DVD.  

 "The Edge of Tomorrow"  is in theaters Friday, June 6, 2014. 


Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Year:  2014
Staring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Jeremy Piven, Brendan Gleeson
Director: Doug Liman 
Producer(s): Jason Hoffs, Gregory Jacobs, Tom Lassally, Jeffrey Silver
Writer: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Hiroshi Sakurazaka
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 113 minutes
Release Date:  6/6/2014

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