Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) Film Review

Check it out... if a Tom Cruise-driven action film still excites you, for this is one of his finest performances and films. 

Skip it... if the originality, intelligence, and hilarity that this film provides don't provoke your curiosity in the slightest. 

Edge of Tomorrow poster
"With such a summer as last, which boasted a lack of original and inventive material all round, Edge of Tomorrow is refreshing."

Edge of Tomorrow is a film directed by Doug Liman, and stars Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton and Brendan Gleeson, and takes place partially into the future, where an alien race has found itself onto our planet, and is threatening our very existence. William Cage (Cruise), an army recruitment officer, is forced into combat against said aliens, but finds out after dying in battle, that he has to relive the same day that he just took part in; it is then up to Cage to use his new found ability to figure out how to defeat the aliens, with the help of army veteran and badass alien killer Rita Vrataski (Blunt).

After an extensive 4 year hiatus, director Doug Liman, famous for such films as The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith has returned to deliver us his next feature film, Edge of Tomorrow. Whilst the marketing campaign didn't have me overly excited, I was anticipating this release, and looked forward to reviews flooding in after the release date. With an outstanding 89% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, my excitement was at fever pitch, and with a further A rating from Chris Stuckmann, a 4.5 and 4.25 from Kristian Harloff and Mark Ellis respectively, and an "Awesometacular" from JeremyJahns, his highest rating, I was very much looking forward to my viewing of this film. And so, does Edge of Tomorrow deliver a strong movie going experience, or should this film be discarded as nothing more than a Groundhog Day ripoff? The film leans heavily over to the former side; Edge of Tomorrow is possibly the year's greatest film, so far.

With an involving plot line, intelligent characters that have your undivided interest all throughout the running time, a swift pace, action that stuns and wows, and a screenplay that understands that the viewer is not a complete idiot (I shall elaborate later!), Edge of Tomorrow is arguably Liman's best film. Whether or not you enjoyed The Bourne Identity or any other Liman film, this should appeal to you in one way or another. Whilst I will discuss the performances in due time, I believe credit should first be given out to our director, Mr. Liman, and the screenwriters, Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth. These men have brought to life a film which takes note of the viewer, and doesn't explain absolutely everything downright. It understands that you as an intelligent human being can draw links between various scenes, if given enough information. We've seen this specific technique (reliving a day and learning from past mistakes) in film making before, but what makes this specific experience so unique and different from every other film taking on that premise is the fact that the writers don't feel the need to repeat everything too often. The biggest skepticism that a viewer can have coming into this film is whether or not it will be repetitive. Edge of Tomorrow is most certainly not repetitive. After the first death, Cruise relives the day near perfectly, so you understand his predicament, but after this is done a single time, the screenwriters don't feel required to repeat this same set of scenes over and over again. You, as a viewer, understand that the main character is repeating the day again; you don't have to have that explicitly stated to you every time it occurs! McQuarrie and both Butterworths understand this, and so therefore, the film never becomes repetitive in what scenes it reenacts a second or third time. With this kind of film and premise, this handling of the script is vital for keeping the audience's sustained interest, and thankfully, it is worked perfectly.

Performance-wise, Edge of Tomorrow is exemplary, better than most films this year. Who doubts Tom Cruise's acting chops at this point in his career? Even those who didn't enjoy Oblivion (Not the case with me!), should be able to agree that his performance in that film was truly the shining aspect of the film as a whole. In Oblivion, though, he didn't have much competition to contend with on a performance level. Here, he is surrounded by equally impressive actors and actresses, and he trumps them all. As a Cruise fan, I can happily say that this is one of his strongest performances. He inhabits the initially cowardly character of Cage perfectly, but as he forms into this relatable, sympathetic, badass character, he steals the entire show! And the most impressive thing, especially at this point in his career, is the fact that I never saw Tom Cruise whilst I was watching this film; only his character. For such an A-lister as Cruise, that is quite the impressive claim. Emily Blunt is near as good, sporting a much more impressive physique then we've ever seen her. She plays the tough chick, but unlike someone like Michelle Rodriquez, she still stays relatable. The biggest issue that I often find with this tough chick character in films in general, is the fact that said female often doesn't sport any vulnerability; this therefore makes her less relatable and I can't connect to such a character on a human level. Everyone sports vulnerability, and it doesn't seem natural when a character refuses to show any emotion whatsoever. What made the soldiers in Aliens entertaining and memorable? Was it their initial gruffness, or was it their individual breakdowns throughout the film? Personally, I remember Bill Paxton's soldier in Aliens (He also stars in Edge of Tomorrow) for his quote "Game over man, game over;" his vulnerability made him memorable. Emily Blunt's Vrataski is memorable for the exact same reason. From first glance, she looks like an unbreakable warrior, sporting a big ass sword and no emotional flaws, but looking deeper, she is scared and caring, which makes her human and relatable. Blunt's performance allows this to shine through in spades, so credit is due. The rest of the ensemble, including said Bill Paxton, Kick Gurry and Brendan Gleeson, give glorious and sometimes hilarious performances. All inhabit their characters perfectly, and so they deserve praise. For this section alone, Edge of Tomorrow shines as one of the most impressive films of the year. But there is more to come!

Visually, Liman has perfected this film. Drawing back on a Nostalgia Critic quote, paraphrasing obviously, the best use of visual effects is when they are used in conjunction with practical effects. This means that the audience can often, if used well, not tell the difference between practical and visual effects, making for a film which never takes you out of the experience. Edge of Tomorrow fits this bill perfectly. The combat suits look very much legitimate, the sets, for the most part, look incredibly realistic, and some of the stunts look unaided by visual effects; most notably a plane crash involving Cruise and Blunt towards the end of the film, which looks completely genuine. As an application for telling the story, Liman uses visuals to it's full extent, without going overboard. The sound design deserves equal acclaim. Every gunshot sounds fantastic, and the sounds the aliens make, machine-like and aggressive, literally sent shivers down my spine. Speaking of the aliens; who in Seven Hells designed those creatures?! I'm so damn sick of seeing humanoid aliens which we can "relate" to; where are the aliens like the Xenomorph which are meant to look hostile, and completely unsympathetic? Thankfully, the designers of the aliens in this film gave the creatures an absoutetly harrowing and frightening look, that did impress me. They move incredibly quickly, and paired with Liman's well utilized shaky-cam, they initially can't be properly seen, all adding to the anticipation. But when they approach Cruise's character, you should get a bit of a jump. They are ruthless, intimidating creatures which should partially scare you, at some point. They look original, they act original; everything about them seems to be unique to them. Impressive stuff.

Whilst we're discussing the shaky-cam, I think it should be noted that Liman does not overuse the technique, as so many directors do. He uses it to maintain pace and intensity, and never manages to completely confuse you in regards to what is happening. The direction in general is absolutely flawless, from camerawork to pacing. Despite the seemingly repetitive and slow premise, the director and screenwriters used the previously mentioned techniques in handling the use of repetition, so as to make the movie trudge along fairly quickly. In retrospect, it is a very fast film, that rushes by quite quickly. Coming out of the theatre, I thought the film would've been closer to 90 minutes long, not 113 minutes long. It's impressive to see an action film, in this day and age of movie making, which doesn't feel like a 2 hour long film, but more something shorter. Yet all the same, it's as satisfying as something like Godzilla or The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in terms of length. It's a tight, incredibly well handled film, which is impressive for such an action film like this, which moves in a number of unexpected and eyebrow raising directions. There are a few plot twists which did actually stun me, I'll admit it; I watch Game of Thrones, yet that still doesn't seem to make me invulnerable to getting stumped by a good plot twist, it seems! All in all, this film, on a direction level, stuns in quality.

All in all, this is possibly one of the best sci-fi films ever made. Edge of Tomorrow is fast paced, hilarious when it intends, well acted, intensely engrossing, and beautifully executed on all fronts. As I mentioned, this is one of Cruise's best films, and undoubtedly Liman's best endeavour, and is something I'm sure to come back to sometime in the future. With such a summer as last, with a lack of inventive and original material all round, Edge of Tomorrow is the kind of refreshing film that we deserve. I view it somewhat like Pacific Rim; in a year where building franchises and constructing sequels is so prominent, finding a film which just wants to stand tall on it's own merits brings a smile to my face. No matter your gripes with any of those involved, this is a must see. Edge of Tomorrow is playing in theatres now. 


Junkie Score: 10
Worth Admission Price? Yes

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