Edge checks every box, hugely satisfying action movie

After half a decade of self-ostracizing and controversy, there is still no one who can carry a film quite like Tom Cruise.

Edge of Tomorrow

General Brigham forges papers saying Cage is a deserter to get the ground forces to go along with forcing him to the front line. With his character arc, the film would be much better if that actually were the case. Photos courtesy Warner Bros. Motion Pictures.

His new film, Edge of Tomorrow, is based heavily on the Japanese light novel All You Need is Kill. Earth has been invaded by hive-minded aliens called mimics. After scoring a major victory in Verdun, France because of the cartoonish heroics of Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the global army goes all in to reclaim Europe. For absolutely no reason, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) assigns William Cage (Cruise), a public relations officer with no combat experience, to the campaign’s front lines. Cage dies covered in the blood of an alpha mimic, and he gains their blood-born power — to reset time after death, making him as invincible as he’s willing to die to be.

Edge of Tomorrow is pretty much everything you could want from a blockbuster in sequence. At the beginning — and this is the only time the film is difficult to watch — it’s ridiculous. The idea that a general would put a PR major on the front lines, first on a whim and then out of spite, pushes the suspension of disbelief much further than it should go in act 1. Soldiers, prospective comrades, are constantly taunting Cage about how he’s going to die. Anyone with even a basic understanding of group combat will be put off.

After Cage gains his powers, for a time, the film becomes a fast-paced comedy where you get to watch Tom Cruise die over an dover again without consequence for the silliest reasons. At one point, he literally doesn’t look both ways before crossing the street. Cruise is one of the most highly touted and widely hated actors in the world, and both characteristics are used to full effect here.

Edge of Tomorrow 2

The film tries to earn feminism points by not letting anyone finish Vrataski’s nickname, “The Full Metal Bitch,” but it actually gains feminism points by having a self-starting female lead character.

Then Vrataski becomes more prominent. Even the film’s token female satisfies every possible audience — she’s got a body to die for, she’s very willful and independent, she’s actually got an important role in the film, she’s got an accent and she spends most of the movie shooting a prone Tom Cruise in the face. Basically, she’s got every quality a viewer could possibly be attracted to.

After Cage gets his act together, the film pulls one of the rarest tricks in the book — making the science fiction details important without making the whole thing lame. The movie throws up obstacles that are understandable, disheartening and don’t rely on either the humans or aliens being really stupid.

Then, it pulls an even rarer trick — making the relationship between the main characters bloom, again, without making the whole thing lame. The sense of time is conveyed so well the audience can actually feel Cage spending an eternity getting to know Vrataski, and we genuinely feel for him when she rebuffs his advances.

Sewn throughout these phases is action. Lots of action. The film runs the gambit from massive, sprawling battle sequences to quiet, desperate chases and single engagements. It is many different things, but it’s never not an action movie.

Edge of Tomorrow is a textbook blockbuster and a hugely satisfying movie. Sadly, it’s looking like a flop — opening against a hugely popular young adult adaptation with two sequels coming in next week will do that. If you get time, take this one in, it’s a more worthy view than the movies it’s up against.

Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. Go Kings go.  For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at reelentropy@gmail.com. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for.

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