Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow (dir. Doug Liman, 2014) – Reliving the same brutal combat, untrained officer William Cage must figure a way to defeat the enemy and end the time loop.

Verdict

Edge of Tomorrow thrills without frills, exemplifying the best of action film-making in recent years.

4/5

Review

Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is having the worst day of his life. He is about to relive it over and over again. Perhaps he should have thought twice about extorting a general to avoid the battlegrounds. His stubborn transgression strips him of his media credentials and lands him on the front lines as an untrained rookie soldier in a savage war.

To worsen matters, his nightmare lasts in an endless and inexplicable time loop. Believing that the army’s victory is the only way to escape the cycle, he seeks the help of war heroine Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) and thereby continually refines their strategy against the alien race Mimics.

Action veteran Tom Cruise is no stranger to cinematic world-saving, never having quite learnt his lesson to steer clear of the wrong places at the wrong time.

Edge of Tomorrow
Cool guys don’t look at explosions.

The uninspired casting choice feels right at home against the explosive set, but it is his fish-out-of-water performance that is refreshing to watch. Shot, crushed, and blown to pieces – the fast-moving montage of his repeated demise plays to welcome humourous effect.

Training him to go the limit is Emily Blunt’s independent soldier. This is a man’s world, where a combat-ready woman is disrespectfully labelled ‘Full Metal Bitch’. The demeaning title hints at sexist film tropes, quickly defied by a character who fights with her own strength, not once needing to be romanced or rescued. Holding the heroine in reverence, the narrative never once devalues her importance and makes her role vital in the progress of the mission.

Edge of Tomorrow
“I don’t know who you are or where you came from, but from now on you’ll do as I tell you.”

The pair persists through repetitive failures that begin to raise doubts on whether they could be playing right into the Mimics’ hands tentacles. (Or, in gamers terms – “I just can’t win. This level must be rigged!”)

At this point, the story seems to be treading on thin ice. Consecutive false endings risk a fair amount of frustration. What Cage does in the loop seems to hold no repercussions for reality, allowing him to play a single level with unlimited lives. Despite these low stakes, a careful design of well-timed edits keeps us intrigued, rewarding patience with impressive visual spectacle to behold in every turn.

In similar movies, the deployment of the time loop device often evoke darker themes of remorse and redemption. Many of which like Timecrimes and Triangle see their protagonists revisit a clouded past, as regret impels them to change their course of action. Each reset aggravates an irreparable butterfly effect, often with fatal consequences in a reflective close.

The light-mood Edge of Tomorrow contrarily has little interest in exploring the human psyche through metaphors of irresolvable paradoxes. Instead, it inspirits the concept for action buffs by intently offering sheer escapism, aiming for impact from thrilling conflict rather than emotive retrospection. Director Doug Liman does so with commendable precision that promises no-frill excitement throughout the battleground’s frenetic clamour.

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8 thoughts on “Review: Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

    1. Haha, it’s an apt description and I’d say that’s a good thing to blockbuster fans. Groundhog Day is more contemplative than Edge of Tomorrow aims to be, but the latter accomplishes what it sets out to do and delivers satisfying action entertainment. Thanks for reading, Doug. 🙂

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      1. Actually, being a guy, I like action films and I generally enjoy Tom’s films, action or not. In fact I’ve seen them all I think. I wasn’t overly thrilled with Oblivion and for me Edge was a bit better. I understand Hollywood’s recent interest in sci-fi films because they get to CG the hell out of the subject matter.. and many folks and kids like it, hence, it’s a money-maker. But truly, Tom isn’t acting in these all that much… the action CG carries the films. Just my perceptions.

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        1. You definitely have a point. Edge of Tomorrow is largely, if not solely, driven by CG-action. While hugely enjoyable and appealing to a general audience, it is by no means a thought-provoking masterpiece worth repeated revisits. I brought up the Spanish film Timecrimes and Triangle from the UK to show the contrast in these films’ ability to minimise visual awe and instead, exploit deeper themes of morality and choices.

          While Edge was a vast improvement over the hollow Oblivion, both films suffer from a bugging lack of depth. There is no surprise that Tom Cruise, like you said, hardly gets to act in either. Most recent Hollywood films – Elysium, the Total Recall remake – seem to have the same issue. They squander great science fiction concepts by seeing them as nothing more than excuses for explosive set pieces. Perhaps independent cinema is where actors should look to for great scripts that demands more layered acting!

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    1. Thank you Dan. It was entertaining indeed, and though many have ventured to call the film ‘smart’, the plot device did end up disappointingly as a gimmick that could have been much better exploited.

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