“Edge of Tomorrow”—A cinematic video game. My fav movie so far this year. ★★★★☆
Obligatory SPOILER ALERT. Don’t read any more if you want to see the movie. (Or, if you want to ruin it more, check out Wikipedia’s plot summary
“Live. Die. Repeat.” So says the movie posters and trailers for Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise’s movie. To be honest, the trailers were okay for me, but didn’t really get me that excited to see the movie. Admittedly, I’m a sci-fi/action-thriller genre fan, but I’ve been content to wait for many to appear on Red Box or Netflix. This movie was headed that way. But, after Edge of Tomorrow hit the theaters, and the reviews came in (90% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), I was more interested. My wife isn’t a huge movie fan, but I convinced her to go with me last night for our weekly date night. It exceeded both of our expectations and we genuinely enjoyed it. I’d go so far as to say, it’s my favorite movie this year (so far), despite a pretty good year (Captain America 2, X-Men, and Godzilla).
The movie starts out with Tom Cruise’s character, Major Cage, a PR man who’s all smiles and sweet talk (think Jerry McQuire in uniform), being asked by General Brigham (the leader of some UN-esque, multi-national force fighting alien invaders) to “sell the war” by being embedded in the battlefront and getting some heroic footage. Cage tries sweet talking/blackmailing his way out of the order, only to land tazed and confused in handcuffs on a military tarmac. He’s been stripped of his rank and conscripted into the army on the eve of a major assault. So much for “show me the money.” Cage’s sweaty fear as he’s strapped into a robotic fighting suit that he’s never worn, much less used before (he doesn’t even know how to turn off the safety so he can fire his gun) is convincingly portrayed by Mr. Cruise (tip of the hat to the NY Times style guide and their quaint formalities). Cage, along with his fellow troops in J Squad, are dropped in the middle of a raging battle. Soldiers are being mowed-down by swirling, whiplashing aliens, and amidst the chaos, Cage is frantically fiddling with his gun’s safety and trying to stay alive. Not unsurprisingly (see “Live. Die. Repeat.”), Cage dies. Good news, he killed an “alpha mimic” alien and is drenched in its acidic blood that, surprisingly, is a fountain of youth, er, regeneration. :-)
Brief aside: OK. This sounds like I’m being critical (or maybe should be—Regenerative alien blood—what the…?), but a suspension of disbelief is required for any sci-fi/action-thriller movie. It’s just par for the course. There will be goofy technology (so goofy I forgot the name of said technology right after the writers used it to keep the movie going) and there will be unrealistic plot twists (If he is so desperate to win the war, why did the general have the secret weapon hidden in his safe and why did he fight so hard against Cage and Rita’s using it? Makes no sense… but, it’s all good. Moving on…).
Cage awakes back on the military tarmac. Thus begins Cage’s cycle of rebirth. All you gamers out there, Cage is basically in a video game with unlimited lives. It reminds me of playing some side-scroller like Super Mario Bros.—the same things happen until you get to a new part of the level, only to die in a new way from new challenges. Eventually you memorize the game and are able to beat it. It is frustrating, but you keep going. So it is with Cage until he meets up with the she-protagonist, Rita “Angel of Verdun” Vrataski, played by Emily Blunt (coming off a string of hits in the genre—Looper and The Adjustment Bureau), who recognizes his ability. Rita had the same ability for a while until she was given a blood transfusion which flushes the acidic alien blood from her system. (If it’s acid, wouldn’t human blood vessels… whatever….) Rita becomes a Mr. Miyagi to Cage, turning him into a real soldier. No “wax on, wax off,” though—her tutelage is tougher and usually ends at the point of a gun for Cage, thus resetting the day. Eventually, Rita transforms Cage into the typical Mr. Cruise character—“hope of humanity” and all that. Win the day, cue closing credits. But, the journey to the end is a fun one.
Overall, the interesting plot, great action, smart humor, and excellent casting (Mr. Cruise and Ms. Blunt are superb) make for a movie well-worth the price of admission (and re-admission). I went in with hopes for this movie, but Edge of Tomorrow’s excellence was unexpected. I look forward to buying the Blu-ray. (One last note: As a parent, the lack of graphic violence, sex, and profanity make it an easy one to recommend for my teenagers. I wish that other movies would follow suit. Good stories sell tickets.)