Film and TV

Reviews for the Easily Distracted:
Edge of Tomorrow

Title: Edge of Tomorrow

This Is About Alien Invasion? Sounds Like a Soap Opera. Agreed, the original title (All You Need Is Kill) was much snappier.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Four Punxsutawney Phils out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis: Advertising flack attempts to blackmail his way out of a combat assignment and is sent to the front, where he is killed over and over again. Somewhere, Bill HIcks is smiling.

Tagline: "Live. Die. Repeat."

Better Tagline: "You died."


Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Despite what years of reading Beetle Bailey has taught us, mouthing off to an officer never pays off. Worse is trying to blackmail them, which Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) ends up doing in an effort to avoid participating in the first invasion of occupied Europe since the continent was invaded by aliens called "Mimics" (thanks to the their uncanny ability to match and overcome our military efforts). Sent to the front lines as the most tantalizing of cannon fodder, he inadvertently kills an "Alpha" alien, which allows him to reset the day of the invasion every time he dies, because movies. Now, along with heroic soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), he has to hunt the alien's source of energy before, I dunno, they solve our energy crisis with nuclear fusion, or something.

"Critical" Analysis: Edge of Tomorrow is the best video game movie of all time.

I don't mean it's the best video game "adaptation," because -- as we all know -- that honor is shared by Super Mario Bros. and Passion of the Christ. No, I mean EOT is the most accurate depiction of the video game experience ever made: Cage repeatedly finds himself at the same starting point, running through a series of memorized actions (and bitchin' action sequences) to achieve the overall objective. Each time he restarts (minus a few slips of the thumbstick), he gets a little further. If they'd made me the game designer, I'd have added a few more spawning points, because having to go all the way back to beginning is infuriating.

It's like they made a movie out of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link.

Cruise and co-star Blunt appear up to the task. At this stage in his career, we don't really doubt Cruise's action cred (more on that later), but as the "Angel of Verdun" (alternately, the "Full Metal Bitch"), Blunt is a real pleasure. It's depressing that we can still easily recall most genuine female sci-fi badasses, but Rita Vrataski certainly deserves some consideration along with names like Ellen Ripley, Kara Thrace, and Zoe Washburne.

And Groundhog Day The Earth Stood Still jokes aside (and I've made plenty of them), Edge of Tomorrow keeps the repetitive from being too, well, repetitive. Director Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity) and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (who previously teamed with Cruise on Valkyrie and Jack Reacher) depict Cage's growing awareness (and improved skills) cannily, and aided by a subtly hilarious performance by Bill Paxton as Cage's drill sergeant.

But more than that, Edge of Tomorrow is a lot of fun. Certainly, the Fate of the World(tm) is at stake, but it says quite a bit about Liman and McQuarrie that they can still BeDazzle a frayed and worn out genre. Alien invasion? Blah blah blah. Nations unite against an extraterrestrial threat? Argle bargle. Nifty mech battlesuits? Yadda yadda yadda.

Mech battlesuits. They can't even make a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range and I'm supposed to believe we're on the verge of mech battlesuits.

The filmmakers also wring a great deal of humor from the conceit that Cage has to die - over and over and over - to advance the story. I suspect much of the audience's enjoyment may come from watching Cruise get killed several dozen times, which doesn't strike me as very fair.

LA Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson has a great piece about post-Oprah Cruise and the perception that his career somehow needed a comeback, never mind that every movie he's starred in (even Knight and Day) made a profit, and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Jack Reacher have garnered Cruise some of his best notices. Here, Cruise covers all the necessary bases -- action, humor, pathos -- and at 51 years old he delivers one of the most enjoyable performances of his career.

What's not unfair is the criticism that, after a rousing first two acts, EOD disappointingly slips into same old/same old once the "temporal anomaly" is no longer in play. It's not necessarily a bad ending, but doesn't live up to the preceding 50 minutes.

Edge of Tomorrow is in theaters today. TL;DR: Cruise is one of our last bona fide action stars, and -- weird pseudo-religion or not -- still delivers.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar