It sounds a little dull — Tom Cruise repeating the same day over and over and over and over and over… and over again. But you must trust me, this film is anything but dull.
It’s been a little while since we’ve seen a good Doug Liman film. He is, of course, best known for The Bourne Identity which is indeed quite excellent. His next installment is a film many loved but which I did not love all that much: Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It was okay as far as it goes — a little crass and gruesome, but decent enough for what it was. And a lot of people like Jumper which I have not seen. Bourne was in 2002, Smith in 2005, and Jumper in 2008. So now in 2014, it’s been six years since his last feature film. But I reckon it was worth the wait.
All You Need Is Kill
Edge of Tomorrow was originally titled All You Need Is Kill, which would arguably have been a better title, though it might not have rolled off the tongue quite as easily. The film is based on a Japanese science ficion short novel of the same name and features many similar plot points — though the end has been heavily modified.
Here’s the gist: Tom Cruise plays Major Bill Cage who is forced to fight in a war against the aliens called Mimics. It’s not long before Cage is killed by an ugly blueish alien spewing what looks like blue acid all over. But that’s not the end. Cage wakes up back on the base being yelled at again to get up.
Over the course of time, Cruise finds the best and most well known soldier of the war, Rita Vrataski. Come to find out, she got so good because the same time-looping thing happened to her. Now with time repeating over and over again, they must find a way to stop the Aliens.
Fun and Energetic
In a film about repeating the same day over and over again, you might expect that things would get a little dull. That is certainly not the case here. Never once did I find the film to drag or lose steam. This is one incredibly well paced film. It takes some time for the tender moments but it never makes you wonder when something is going to happen either. It manages to strike just the right balance.
One incredibly well handled approach that Liman took was to not always let us in on how many times Cage had been through a particular scenario. Of course things always unfold a little bit differently with each loop back, but there are times when we advance to a new point we haven’t seen before, but we learn that Cage has already been there many times.
There’s a particular point where Cage is getting Rita some coffee, he knows how much sugar she likes, where there’s a shirt in the abandoned house that will fit her, and much more. Finally, she stops and looks at him and asks, “how many times have we been here”. The answer is a lot, and yet it’s the first time we, the audience have seen this particular scene.
Of course the aliens brought plenty of energy too. While in many ways unlike much of anything we’ve seen before, the mildly reminded me of sentinels from The Matrix. But for the most part they were quite unique. While I could have wished for a bit more development of the aliens as a species, it’s easy to forgive because the film is much more focused on Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt.
Speaking of which, Emily Blunt is very nearly the bigger star in this film. Yes, Tom Cruise brings a lot to the table, and he’s been in many butt-kicking roles over the years. But this film deviates from the usual Cruise model just a bit. The character we have here is a bit of a coward and a weasel — he black mails a general to get out of fighting. This is the sort of character we don’t get to see Cruise play too often and it was sort of refreshing. Normally it’s like it’s in his contract that he can’t appear villainous, vulnerable, or un-macho, but not this time around and I liked it. This does tend to make Emily Blunt the bright shining star of the film and its certainly nice to get away from the “damsel in distress” motif so often employed by films of this sort and let Rita be the one teaching Cage. I remember when I first saw her in the film Looper I thought there was something quite special there and she blows this part out of the water. She brings a vibrancy, earnestness, and brilliance to the role that is to be commended — and next to the star power of Tom Cruise, that’s saying a lot.
As with all time movies, some of the wind gets taken out of my sails upon a little bit of analysis. I will say that because the timeline resets every time and there are no overlapping timelines or worries about creating paradoxes, this film is a shade better than your average time travel movie, but that is not to say the film is without it’s flaws.
The primary flaw which I will point out is the ending which I simultaneously loved and hated. I loved it because it was the way I wanted things to end for the characters, and yet it left some mystery. Essentially, Cage goes back and finds Rita and she doesn’t remember a thing. We can assume he’ll tell her everything and they ride off into the sunset… or not. It’s up to us.
But I hated it because it didn’t quite play by the rules established by the film itself. Cage has lost his reset ability, which certainly ups the ante at the end of the film. But as the enemy is blasted into oblivion by Cage’s grenades, the blue goo gets all over Cage and time resets again, although even further than it has done before. Every other time, things rest to when he wakes up on the base. Here it resets several hours earlier at least. And for some inexplicable reason, the aliens have gone dormant. But time has reset so how can Cage’s grenade have had an impact. It doesn’t make a lot of sense by the rules established by the film and i find that frustrating.
Word on the street is that the studio didn’t like the original ending which killed off both primary characters so they “fixed” it. I don’t know that I would have been any happier if they had died off or not though so maybe the ending was always destined to be a bit troubled.
The other thing that bothered me was that apparently as a result of the black mail Cage did to try to stay out of the fighting, the general sentenced him to death by sending paper-work that he as not a Major, but a private, and a deserter. This means he must fight on the front lines even though he has no combat skills. It’s essentially a death sentence. It is not explained why the general would do this, why he wanted him on the front lines in the first place, etc.
One final note about an aspect of the film I loved was the tragedy of the almost one sided love story. We are not told how many times Cage looped back through the same day, but the implication is that it’s easily several hundred times. I’d say we’re looking at over a year as far as Cage’s time perception is concerned. So he obviously gets to know Rita. And as you might expect he falls in love with her. To a very small extent Rita can sense it and responds to it, but since she is not looping with him, there is no way for her to know the depth of the love he has for her or to know how much he knows her. It’s a tragic thing and it worked really well for the film.
Box Office Disaster?
As of this writing (shortly after opening weekend), this film made on a budget of $178 Million has brought in a shockingly low $31.9 Million domestically. It’s done slightly better overseas, but the worldwide total is only $142.9 Million. I find this to be shameful. You know we do all this talking about wishing there were more originality in cinema and less sequels, but here we are with one of the more original cinematic pieces to come through the ranks in quite a while — and a good one at that — and we just can’t muster up the give a care to make the film do well. All I can say to you all is you know who to blame as Hollywood keeps making sequels and prequels. Look in a mirror people. We’ve been offered up a wonderful film and we seem to have rejected it. What is wrong with you people. Make amends and get out there to see this film! It’s a great film and I want to see more of this and less of the sequels and prequels. So what are you waiting for?