Movie Review #778: ‘Edge of Tomorrow’’s ending is a letdown, but its two leads, realistic visuals, and epic sound bring enough enjoyment out of the time travel gimmick.
By Red Stewart
|Rated PG-13 (contains sci-fi violence, profanity, suggestive dialogue)|
Has the concept of time travel been overused to the point of annoyance in fiction? H.G. Wells popularized it with The Time Machine in 1895, and since then many famous novelists including Isaac Asimov (The End of Eternity), Ray Bradbury (A Sound of Thunder), Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five), and Stephen King (11/22/63) have utilized it in some capacity. While these are all wonderful works by wonderful authors, the problem with time travel is that, like a deus ex machina, it needs to be properly executed or risk appearing as bad writing.
This is the exact same case in film, and while I have enjoyed the use of time travel in such works as “Back to the Future”, “Groundhog Day”, “Midnight in Paris”, and the recent “X-Men: Days of Future Past”, it has felt a little underwhelming in other popular movies like “Superman”, “The Terminator”, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, and “The Butterfly Effect”. In “Edge of Tomorrow”, based on the Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill, Cruise plays Bill Cage, an unwilling soldier who gets stuck in a time loop when he inherits the abilities of an invading alien race called the Mimics. These creatures have been able to conquer many other worlds thanks to their ability to rewind time back to the beginning of the battle, thus giving them a strategic advantage over the armies of their targets. Now holding this power himself, Cage teams up with respected soldier Rita Vrataski (Blunt), who once held the same skills before losing them, to try and change the course of the future (or is it history?).
If you’ve seen “Source Code”, then “Edge of Tomorrow” will have a familiar feel. As Cage gets better and better with each reset, he in turn falls in love with Vrataski and risks the mission to keep her out of harm’s way. This romantic angle doesn’t feel as authentic as Gyllenhaal and Monaghan’s, but it is decently executed to the point where I smiled when the two interacted in the calmer scenes. Of course these scenes are few and far between as Edge of Tomorrow is a film that rests primarily on its action, and in that regard the VFX and especially SFX departments deliver. The sound is the most realistic I’ve ever heard on screen, be it IMAX or regular. To give you an idea, even if I was blind I’d say I’d have a good understanding of the intensity/perilousness of the battles thanks to the incredible work done by the audio department. But the visuals don’t lack for laziness either as the combination of practical effects and CGI create a strong sense of realism not seen since “Saving Private Ryan”, even with the enemies being tentacle aliens.
As one of the few actors capable of pulling off comedy, drama, and action hero, Cruise is near-perfect for the role of Cage. Compared to many of his previous films, though, Cruise’s co-star Blunt isn’t overshadowed by him at all, as she successfully channels her natural charm towards this serious war hero character in Vrataski. Despite the good casting, I did have an aesthetic complaint here about both actors’ age. Having done all of his own stunts for “Edge of Tomorrow”, Cruise proves that (like Liam Neeson) he is not out of the game yet, but at 51 he does appear a bit out of place. On the other side, Blunt, at 31, almost seems too young to be this high-ranking soldier feared and admired by all. It looks like 41 would’ve been the magic number!
“Edge of Tomorrow” doesn’t try to be anything more than smart, escapist entertainment, and in that regard it succeeds. I didn’t leave the theater feeling I had lost brain cells like when I finished viewing “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”, but unlike with “Groundhog Day”, I wasn’t enlightened by Cage’s whole experience of reliving each day. In the end, the acting, visual effects, and sound systems make this a summer blockbuster done right. ✴