I’ve heard folks describe this slyly smart sci-fi bon-bon as Groundhog Day meets the video game Halo, and there is truth to that. The movie does use a “Live. Die. Repeat.” narrative structure (Edge of Tomorrow‘s marketing slogan, in fact … which also would have made a better title), and it cannily turns video game tropes on their collective head: bloodless mayhem; squiggly, skittery, unrelatable enemies; trash-talking mercenaries; Starship Troopers-esque chunky, scruffy battle gear; and, most importantly, the ability to replay a scene over and over until you get it right and can move onto the next.
Here’s the thing: director Doug Liman (so good with popcorn fare that’s a witty cut above the rest – Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Swingers, The Bourne Identity, Jumper) is not glorifying violence but rather using genre elements (not unlike the aforementioned Starship Troopers does) with such crafty juxtaposition (including the endless, intentionally mind-numbing repetition) to emphasize the colossal absurdity, and ultimate futility, of warfare. More 50 First Dates meets Dr. Strangelove.
While the rest of the world seems to have abandoned their golden boy Cruise, I actually find him rather interesting these days. From his gonzo cameo in Tropic Thunder to his sozzled musical turn in Rock of Ages to his caustic antihero Jack Reacher, Cruise appears to have finally embraced his twitchy, sweaty inner-hooligan and jettisoned his alpha male leading man aspirations. He has given up on winky, grinny charm … and has become authentically charming in the process. He finally feels like one of us – welcome to the poor schlub club, Tommy – you always belonged here.
Cruise’s character Major William Cage is a PR wonk who has somehow talked his way into a cushy military job as Europe is overtaken by long-legged-y beasties that make ominous hissing noises like a Slinky descending stairs. The always perfect Brendan Gleeson plays a Euro-general who has seen it all and isn’t buying Cage’s line of BS, sending the yellow-bellied marketer directly to the front-lines … don’t pass go, don’t collect $200.
And this is where the movie takes off like a rocket ship. Bill Paxton, in yet another wry summer movie turn (see him equally genius in a very different role in Million Dollar Arm) is Cage’s commanding officer with a bad 70s ‘stache and an even (intentionally) worse 70s swagger. Cage ends up thrown on a beach-y war-zone (a la Normandy) alongside a crew of misfits. He gets sprayed with some icky purple alien blood, and gains the gift (or curse?) to repeat this day over and over and over.
Cruise’s performance is so unexpectedly nebbishy, sans any annoying Woody Allen eccentricities, that he has the audience in the palm of his hand instantly. We are right there with him in this comically nightmarish bad dream.
Eventually, Cage survives long enough to meet Joan of Arc-super warrior Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt playing splendidly against type – see Devil Wears Prada, The Five-Year Engagement). Vrataski once had the same affliction as Cage, doomed to repeat the same day in an endless loop until a blood transfusion took her power away. Consequently, she becomes his Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mr. Miyagi, and Ellen Ripley all in one. Blunt uses her crack timing, soulful eyes, proper British cynicism, and cut-glass cheekbones all to great effect, giving us an intimidatingly likable a**-kicker who suffers no fools gladly.
By the time the third act starts to wrap up with its inevitable “save the world by blowing up the source of all alien incursions” denouement, your patience with the film’s conceits may be worn thin. I suspect that is by design. The audience’s mental posture mirrors Cage’s/Cruise’s at that particular cinematic crossroads, and the overlap of viewer and viewed is a gas. (At least it was for me.) And this film is one of the rare examples of an ambiguous non-ending ending that works like a charm. I won’t spoil it, but I think you’ll agree.
P.S. Viewing this movie was the capstone to our pal Jim Lynch‘s Big Day of Fun.
In anticipation of Jim’s upcoming nuptials to Lyn Weber, we had an afternoon of silly (great!) activities:
Hudson Museum (with genuine Tucker car) and Sidetracks in Ypsilanti, SkyZone and GameStop in Canton, Putterz (with a Z!) in Ypsilanti, and Carlyle Grill and, yes, Edge of Tomorrow in Ann Arbor.
The day was less Hangover more Little Rascals.
Assorted thunderstorms and a leaky limo roof only enhanced the fun, never dampening (pun intended) the hijinks! Enjoy these photos …
Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.
In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.
My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.
i’m not a cruise fan at all but this does sound like a bit of humbling romp for him. and your bachelor day looks so, so fun! best wishes to them )
Thanks, Beth! Yup, I think you’d get a kick out of this movie
I enjoyed cruise in taps when he was a chubby lad…and I love the tom cruise that poo-poos psychiatry…ani love the cruise that is NOT marketed as something he is not…and I love these snapshots even more than I love the real cruise!
I agree with that assessment wholeheartedly. After 30 some years in the business, it seems like he’s finally comfortable enough just to be himself. I hope so.
I actually saw this one and really enjoyed it, and didn’t mind Cruise either. The alien were pretty cool, too. Congrats to you friend. And to your book. That’s excellent!
Thank you, Amy! I appreciate the comment and the kind words. Have a great day!
hey, I love amy! (and beth already!)
Thanks, Susie! I do too! Love you too
Good review Roy. I enjoyed this one a lot, even if it was just another gimmick movie. It still worked well enough with that gimmick to where I cared.
Good way to describe it. They knew they had a gimmick, they embraced it, and they made it fresh.
Went to see this movie on the basis of your review, and it was fun. Maybe 6-7 minutes too long in the third act, but the unsettling ending made up for it. Plus the last two lines bend it almost into romance after, more or less, resisting that for Cruise and Blunt. Great review!
I do agree with you about the third act. It devolves into what every summer movie seems to ever devolve into any more: something akin to a blurry video game. I’m glad that last line redeemed it for you. I agree with your take. Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the kind words!
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