The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Edge of Tomorrow

A good movie rule to live by: Never count out Tom Cruise. He's got a pretty good track record, but like any actor, he's had his share of duds, too. Last year, his sci-fi epic Oblivion was both a commercial and critical disappointment. So what does Cruise do? Follow it up with another sci-fi epic! And this one, Edge of Tomorrow, is much better. It delivers fun in a big, big way.

You're going to hear the term “Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers” a lot in conjunction with this movie, and while I generally dislike such lazy categorizations, it's a pretty apt description. The story takes place in the near future, where a race of hostile aliens, dubbed “Mimics,” is overtaking Europe. Cruise plays Major William Cage, an American officer who has studiously avoided combat. His commanding officer, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), nonetheless orders him onto the front lines. When he's dropped on the beach for an offensive mission, Cage doesn't last very long. But rather than dying permanently, he enters some kind of time loop, awakening the day before and forced to go through the process again. This keeps happening. Then he meets Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a decorated combat veteran who was also stuck in the same loop once. Each day, Cage has to reset the counter, so to speak, by dying in some way, so that he and Vrataski can find a way to prevent the Mimics from continuing their destructive streak.

That concept might sound repetitive, but one of the smartest things about Edge of Tomorrow is that it avoids such a pitfall. We don't see everything that happens to Cage at first, just his initial introduction to his platoon and its leader, the sarcastic Master Sergeant Farell (the hilarious Bill Paxton), plus the battle where he dies. After crossing paths with Vrataski and figuring out how to get away from Farell, we see other things that happen to him and how he learns from repeating them. In other words, the movie doesn't repeat the entire scenario again and again, just different sections of it, in a sequence. This approach keeps the movie from feeling even the slightest bit stale. Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) and editor James Herbert do a brilliant job of making the repetition drive the story forward, rather than having it feel as though it's weighing things down.

Observing Cage as he learns new information with every re-lived day is exciting, and so are the action sequences. The aliens have been well-designed and are unlike anything else I can remember seeing in a science-fiction film. They're kind of a cross between an octopus and a buzz saw, and they occasionally emerge from the ground, ensuring that we – like the characters – are taken by surprise by their sudden appearance. Good action in a Tom Cruise summer movie is to be expected. What pleasantly takes you by surprise is how funny Edge of Tomorrow is. There's a delightful sense of humor at play here, particularly in the way Cage is continually frustrated by his daily death and need to go through the same routine one more time, hoping to get it right. The film earns laughs from this scenario, and that provides a nice balance for the action.

Cruise and Blunt, meanwhile, bring a much-appreciated human element to the story. The whole “Live. Die. Repeat” idea is more than just a gimmick. Screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects), Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth (Fair Game), adapting Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel All You Need is Kill, have created a plot that's as much about how the human characters interact with each other as it is about them fighting aliens. Cage has to use trial-and-error to convince others of his situation, to varying degrees of success. Later on, he and Vrataski form a strong bond, as it is their shared understanding that will create a window for possible victory. Both lead actors are terrific, generating chemistry that keeps you invested right up to the last second.

Most school children learn the motto “practice makes perfect.” Edge of Tomorrow is not the first movie to tackle that notion. (Source Code is another example.) Watching William Cage practice strategy to win a seemingly unwinnable war provides all sorts of pleasure. Edge of Tomorrow is the best kind of sci-fi: smart, engaging, witty, exciting, and an entertaining joyride from start to finish.

( out of four)

Blu-Ray Features:

Edge of Tomorrow
Own Edge of Tomorrow on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and Digital HD on October 7th

Edge of Tomorrow - now officially titled Live. Die. Repeat. Edge of Tomorrow in marketing materials – will be available in a 3D Blu-Ray combo pack, a 2D Blu-Ray combo pack, and on DVD October 7.

The bonus materials are fairly substantial. “Operation Downfall” consists of two parts. “Operation Downfall – Adrenaline Cut” (2:34) is a slightly different cut of a scene where Cruise's character lands on the beach and fights aliens. “Storming the Beach” (9:00) features director Doug Liman, Cruise, and others discussing the use of WWII as an inspiration for the sequence. Their goal for the movie was to create a “WWII of the future.” Concept art and previsualization materials are presented in this section. We also see how the production built its own beach, then used green screen to fill it out.

The next category is “Weapons of the Future” (8:25), and it looks at the exo-suits the actors wore in the movie, plus the design of the weapons they used. This section has some fun footage of Cruise trying his suit on for the first time. Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton also appear to discuss the challenges of doing stunts in their costumes.

“Creatures Not of This World” (5:38) centers around the development of the aliens, especially the desire to make them unique and to give them a backstory that made them more dimensional villains. Animation tests are among the highlights here.

“On the Edge with Doug Liman” (42:37) focuses on the filmmaker, providing insight into his vision for Edge of Tomorrow and how he carried it out. Also included is general production material related to set design, special effects, and working with Tom Cruise.

Finally, there are seven-and-a-half minutes of deleted scenes. Nothing exemplary, although an unused combat scene is fun to see.

An UltraViolet copy of the film is also included.

The supplementary materials on the Blu-Ray are informative and entertaining, giving a nice peek inside the making of this film. For whatever puzzling reason, Edge of Tomorrow was not a major box office hit. Hopefully this Blu-Ray release will establish it as the modern sci-fi masterpiece it is.

Edge of Tomorrow is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive. The running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.

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