RogerBW's Blog

Edge of Tomorrow 04 April 2023

2014 science fiction, dir. Doug Liman, Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt; IMDb / allmovie. Groundhog Day meets Aliens.

This is a studio film, not an auteur film: Doug Liman wasn't a first-time director, but nor had he been in charge of anything big. Tom Cruise's name was clearly what brought in the money. And that exerts a gravitational pull even if he doesn't try to take over production (as he apparently would on The Mummy a few years later): if he's not happy, he can walk, and that'll destroy the whole production, in a way that having to find a new director won't.

So I'm surprised to see that, in the transition from the light novel All You Need Is Kill, our hero has been turned from just another raw recruit (OK, he is a bit old for that) into a former ad-man who's also an arrant coward to the extent of trying to blackmail his superior officer to avoid being assigned to the front line. I think I'm meant to see the Tom Cruise Grin and think that this is a good person and all is well with the world; but it doesn't work on me, and I think instead what a nasty person this is that we're having to follow.

Of course the Groundhog Day element comes in soon enough, but we never really see him repenting of his manipulative ways; rather, he just gets better at them, at the same time as he's becoming a combat god. Meanwhile Rita Vrataski (Blunt) is brought down from badass to emotional support for the big strong man. As in The Lego Movie, the script distorts reality so that the woman who did all the work doesn't get the credit.

There's a pacing problem too: as the endless repetitions grind to a halt, things slacken off, and to try to pep them up again we get another change of conceit to remove the time-reset powers and raise the stakes because "this time it matters". It all feels forced, as are the military SF tropes quite overtly stolen from Aliens and its imitators. At the same time, the physical stakes are dropped: up to that third act break, we've had people getting realistically hurt by impacts, but now all of a sudden our hero can be smashed through a brick wall by a car, or bounced at speed off a series of hard surfaces, and end up just slightly winded.

The action is shot in a confusing style which is entirely reasonable when our man Tom is a novice to combat, but it stays that way even when he knows his way round the battlefield. This is just a missed trick: making things seem clearer to the audience, perhaps even using bullet time to make it clear how much more competent he's got, would have been a fine way of denoting progress.

All right, I got irked by the "dropships", quad-rotor transports set up to allow soldiers to fast-rope to ground level. We only ever see them getting blown out of the sky, and I found myself wondering: what was their intended use? There are helicopters which troops fast-rope down from, but they're élite troops and you do it two or three at a time for very specialised operations, not thirty-odd per aircraft all at once, and not every soldier in your army.

There are bits that do work: the visual realisation of the combat frames seems quite plausible, even if no soldier would accept a thing that shouted out "reload!" to alert the enemy when their weapon was empty. Bill Paxton elevates every scene he's in, as he always did. Blunt is good when she's given a chance to be. But if you don't intrinsically accept Tom Cruise as a Good Guy that you care about, whatever his character actually does, I don't think this film can work for you. (I realise I'm in a minority here, since Cruise has a career in film, and if most people reacted to him the way I do he wouldn't.)

As usual if you want more of my witterings you should listen to Ribbon of Memes.

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  1. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 11:58am on 05 April 2023

    There are times when one has to accept that ones opinions are just that, and trying justify said opinions by interrogating the narrative fall prey to bias, as you admitted at the end.

    As such, this tells the reader very little about the film, but a whole heap about the reviewer, which is a thing that perhaps I notice more than most because that used to be my job.

    In pretty much all regards I think this is one of the finest Mil-SF films ever made, coming only second to Aliens.

    Paxton pretty much steals every scene he's in. Blunt does a great job of bringing Cruise up to speed. And Cruise allows himself to be seen as a doofus and a coward. That takes courage.

    Of course we disagree, but that's okay too.

  2. Posted by DrBob at 01:05pm on 05 April 2023

    I'm with Ashley - I love this movie. I love that Tom Cruise is a cowardly, arrogant little shit at the start and kind of Groundhog Day's his way to redemption. I'm far more convinced that endless combat and endless deaths will turn 'arrogant Tom Cruise' character into someone fit to save the Earth, than I am that endless running around Punxsutawney will turn 'arrogant Bill Murray' character into a nice person who can sustain a relationship with Andie MacDowell.

    The dropships are Hollywood eating itself. "The ship is about to explode!" Sorry mate, it's not a SHIP, its an aircraft.

  3. Posted by RogerBW at 01:28pm on 05 April 2023

    I think this may be what happens when a film hangs so very much on a single star: if you don't get on with their performance, it spoils the rest of it. (I know Ashley liked The Mummy much more than I did too.)

  4. Posted by Ashley R Pollard at 11:21am on 06 April 2023

    Thanks DrBob, it's good to hear from you. I must apologize for not commenting that I agreed with you that Chris Pine, Carl Urban, and Zachary Quinto did a great job on channeling the original cast od Star Trek.

    Pity the plot sucked.

    Roger, as I said back in 2017, I'm not a big fan of Tom Cruise, but I do like a lot of his films. I enjoyed his version of The Mummy well enough, though it is not in the same league as the Brendan Fraser one.

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