Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Edge Of Tomorrow (2014) movie review

Overall verdict: 9.5/10

The Good: Perfect character development, well paced narrative, actors spectacularly playing against type, thrilling action, fittingly gritty but clear cinematography, well placed dark humour, flawless special effects.

The Bad: Requires some thinking to follow the time loop plot

3D Readiness: Post filming 3D conversion.
IMax-ability: Fast paced shots of combat and intense action may not lend well to imax viewing

Based on the Japanese novel "All you need is Kill", EDGE OF TOMORROW is a gripping character focused tale that gives a fun fresh edgy spin to a tried and true sic/fi premise. Remember those impossibly difficult video games where you just keep dying only to restart the game in frustration, get past that part where you last died and then die again? The cycle repeats and only through learning from past missteps can you outmanoeuvre your enemies and make it to the end. It is all a video game to us, but for the unfortunate Ex-Major William Cage, it is looping nightmare.

An alien species called the Mimics have landed. Inhumanly fast, vicious and able to outsmart human attack plans at every turn, Mimic forces threaten to overwhelm the world starting with Europe, until A mysterious victory at Verdun spurs the military's confidence in the one man army exoskeleton called "the jacket". If one woman, Rita Vertasky, could master the "jacket" within a few days of the victory at Verdun, then a legion of similarly equipped soldiers would stand a chance against the mimics. So begins a massive counteroffensive on the coasts of Europe which ends disastrously for former PR officer turned forced conscript William Cage (Tom Cruise).......until he wakes up 24 hours before the invasion at the start of his conscription.

What follows is an intense "groundhog day" style war story. True to the movie tagline, Cage lives, dies and repeats the day each time, and each time, he discovers more about the mimics and his mysterious ability. To change the future of mankind, Cage has to continually enlist the help of Rita Vertasky, the angel of Verdun, to train him and ultimately help him take down this alien menace.

In playing against type, Tom Cruise shines as the cowardly Cage whom we discover is all brave talk and no action. His performance is earnest and nuanced, lending weight to the more tragic scenes of Cage experiencing the deaths of those close to him over and over again. Equally nuanced is the tough as nails "angel of verdun" Rita Vertasky played by Emily Blunt. The emotionally captivating script conveys a beautiful heroes journey for Cage where he grows and learns following each cycle. Peppered throughout is the kind of dark humour which would make Paul Verhoven proud. Bill Paxton channels Lee Emery from Full Metal Jacket and delivers the best drill sergeant jerk face character in recent years.

Through the use of the time loop gimmick, this movie is able to deliver intense thrills and real chills. The irony is in how unpredictable the plot becomes by fooling its audience into the illusion of predictability with its premise. Just as you start to feel "safe" that Cage can overcome any problem by just dying and looping back with renewed knowledge, new twists are thrown in and this heightens the stakes; feel of peril when Cage is suddenly caught off guard has never felt more dangerous. It helps that the antagonistic "mimics" are possibly the most "alien" alien threat that we have seen in a while.

They are a mess of glass-like inhuman appendages with gaping maws that glow fiery red. They are a whipping blur and always seem out of phase with time and space, spectacularly brought to life with cutting edge special effects. While many shots were done on location, one would be hard pressed to tell where the actual location ends and the special effects begin. Those into mecha would definitely be captivated by the exo-suits worn by the human soldiers which hearken back to the story's Japanese roots.

All this aside, Edge of Tomorrow is a lot smarter than it seems at first. It deconstructs cliches and may even be seen as a parody of an audience's expectations when they see a movie. Each loop Cage experiences is slightly different and he fails when he expects only the same formula and is caught off guard by new surprises. In a way, movie audiences feel most "safe" in a cliched movie. Look at the highest grossing blockbusters worldwide and you can see this proof. In the same way, here is a movie that is built on cliche: the time loop, jerk face drill sergeant, world war two Normandy landing ripoff, special effects laden combat etc. Yet these cliches are handled smart and they are delivered spectacularly.

If not for the slightly underwhelming music, Edge of Tomorrow would have gotten a perfect score. Many have called this the movie Starship Troopers should have been. I for one come away with joy and hope seeing how wonderfully Hollywood has adapted a Japanese light novel especially after mediocre results adapting manga and Japanese movies. There are many such novels just waiting to be adapted into blockbuster films: the high school espionage thriller with mechs "Full Metal Panic", the post apocalyptic vampire tale "Trinity Blood", and of course the Gothic science fiction horror that is "Vampire Hunter D".

Watch this, savour this, and repeat. Edge of Tomorrow is easily the biggest surprise hit of 2014.

*****************************Review End***************************

Entertainment: A
Story: A
Acting: A
Characters: A
Music: B
Replay value: A
"Brains": B+

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