Following on from Oblivion, Edge of Tomorrow is the second Tom Cruise script to be produced using Hollywood’s new Derivatext Machine. What you do is you dump a load of existing screenplays in the top, it mashes them all up and a shiny new, if oddly familiar, piece of writing slides out the bottom. In this case the machine has reprocessed Source Code, Starship Troopers, Aliens, War of the Worlds, Saving Private Ryan and Groundhog Day and what we’ve got is an insectiod alien invasion of earth movie featuring brutal beach landings, space marines, Bill Paxton and a protagonist who keeps living the same day over and over again.
Actually, I might have got that wrong. It might be that Edge of Tomorrow is really adapted from a Japanese book and Manga graphic novel; Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill. Either way, when you look at it on paper, it seems as though much of the film has been copied from somewhere else.
Similarities do not necessarily equal unoriginality though and in the same way that Star Wars and Harry Potter can follow the same broad outline (orphaned child, uncle holding him back, magic powers inherited from parents, grey bearded mentor, evil wizard killed father) yet feel totally different then so can this and all those films that have come before it. Edge of Tomorrow actually feels quite fresh and in many respects it isn’t quite like anything you’ve already seen.
First up we have the alien creatures. The design here is fantastic, they aren’t reptilian or beetle like as extra terrestrial beasties so often are and are only animalistic in that they have no humanoid features whatsoever. The best way I can describe them is as volacious octopi but even that isn’t quite right and they are properly otherworldly.
Incidentally, why don’t aliens wear clothes anymore? Are we really the only race in the universe to have evolved a fragile epidermis? Even when they are wearing protective garments, like in Independence Day, it looks like they’re not. I blame Giger. At least Star Trek is keeping it old school.
Edge of Tomorrow isn’t a film with outstanding action sequences or particularly ground breaking special effects, although it does not fail in either of those respects. There are no bigger themes or metaphors at play here, despite the war starting in Germany, spreading through Europe and aiming for victory over the UK. It is just totally entertaining and could well become a classic, providing it doesn’t ‘do a Matrix’ and kill its reputation with weak sequels.
As you might expect from a book adaptation, the film is built around its story. That isn’t to say the plot is deep or involving. It is interesting that the novel has twice been used as the basis for much more visual mediums, with the comic book and this movie, but the narrative is smart and properly thought through. The pace of the film shields it from too much scrutiny anyway. It’s like when you are eating a delicious cake, you don’t tend to worry if it has enough eggs in it or whether they are free range. (I know that might sound a little inconsistent after my condemnation of Godzilla but some ingredients are just too hard to swallow.)
The film is also quite funny with the humour coming from the ludicrous nature of the story. The hero’s day resets every time he is killed and that means we get to see Tom Cruise die over and over again. Let’s just say that a few of the repeated fatalities might have won him the Darwin Award.
Cruise proves once again why he is one of cinema’s biggest stars. Given the right material this guy is excellent and it is great that while most of his contemporaries have been reduced to appearing in the Expendables and other geriaction movies, Cruise is still headlining Summer Blockbusters. He is twenty years the senior of his female co-star but doesn’t look it.
Emily Blunt is excellent too. 2012’s Looper was a step away from the romances and comedies but now she has become a full on action star too and an incredibly long and varied career stands ahead of her.
When she first appeared I had flashbacks to Jane Lynch’s character in Wreck It Ralph but this is a part that a few years ago would have been the grizzled and ageing male war vet. The film isn’t going to score highly on the Bechdel Test but Blunt’s Rita is a strong female character and it is a role where gender is largely irrelevant. Yes, there is some romantic interplay but it isn’t key. Certainly she is beautiful but they don’t play up the sexy, there are no contrived Sandra Bullock in Gravity shots of her in tiny pants. Compare this to some of the images from the comic, with the character’s impossible Manga curves on show in a steamy shower or her sliding lithely out of her battle suit, then you’ll see that the film makers aren’t playing that game.
There are also memorable turns from Brendan Gleeson, Noah Taylor and the aforementioned Bill Paxton but most of the supporting cast are unrecognisable and largely forgettable. Again, this isn’t a problem because it works for the film. Each cast member’s part is just the size it needs to be. There is a shouty sergeant with only one line but the repeating (not repetitive) plot does mean he gets to delivers it around fifteen times.
I did pick out Franz Drameh from Attack the Block. Where have the kids from that film been for the last three years? That film should have instantly launched their careers but it’s like casting directors have been waiting for them to grow up a bit. John Boyega carried that film but only now is he turning up in high profile projects like 24 and Star Wars VII. You might also spot Lara Pulver, so great in Spooks and Sherlock, standing in the crowd. She must have had a larger part in the first edit.
Like all time loopy flicks, the film does pose a few questions. Rita apparently had the same ‘Groundhog Day die and wake up at the start of the same day’ powers as Tom Cruise’s Cage but lost them. Wouldn’t she have to be dead to know that for sure? At least they explain how the rebooting is possible though which is more than they did with Bill Murray. Also, are we seeing the creation of dozens of alternate timelines here? Emily happily shoots Tom in the head to reset but what happens to her after that? Then there is all the close quarter field warfare. Haven’t we already largely moved past that as a species? The aliens don’t seem to be using tanks and jet fighters of any kind, can’t we just fire missiles at them? None of it matters too much though; cake, eggs! Edge of Tomorrow is great slice of popcorn and that is something I am happy to digest.
Is this one for the kids?
The film is a 12A but actually the profanity and violence are kept to a minimum. There is obviously lots of fighting but it isn’t graphic. There is one strong swear word and one bloody death but generally, despite the gallows humour, none of it is that disturbing. I would say it is all fine for children aged ten and above.
The ISWYS Test:
3 out of 3, see above.