16 August 2014

"Edge of Tomorrow" Review

In the near future an alien race known as "Mimics" have invaded Earth, and in order to combat them humanity has built powered exoskeletons. Donning these exoskeletons gives one super-powered strength, agility, and an array of destructive weapons which allows humans to successfully wage war against the Mimics. Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel All you need is Kill, Doug Liman's "Edge of Tomorrow" stars Tom Cruise as William Cage. Forced to become a soldier, Cage finds himself stuck in a time loop repeating the same day.

Conceptually, "Edge of Tomorrow" works as a mesh of things. The time-loop aspect is reminiscent of the Harold Ramis' "Groundhog Day," the beach invasion at the beginning and throughout the film plays out like a sci-fi version of "Saving Private Ryan's" own depiction of D-Day, and finally both the Mimics and Cruise's ragtag band of soldiers that join him bear a similarity to the Aliens and Marine soldiers of "Aliens."

Despite these combinations and comparisons, "Edge of Tomorrow" manages to feel like its own film rather than a half-hearted attempt to mix good ideas. While the drama from the novel is traded in favor of a more comedic aspect, "Edge of Tomorrow" can still be grim at times, so it's well-rounded even with the various aspects going for it. At times these aspects will come together which forms many of the punch lines for the film in the form of black comedy. Some scenes will depict Cage continuously dying in order to successfully complete a task. While certain videogame developers have been attempting to bridge the gap between their own medium and film (one can recall Hideo Kojima's own Metal Gear Solid 4 which boasts a cut-scene sequence of a little over an hour), "Edge of Tomorrow's" time-loop aspects and action genre has almost allowed it to seem like a videogame in the form of a film, wherein a player (Cage) dies and is reset to the moment prior to his death. This is a case where borrowing elements from another medium works however, unlike the video-game to  film adaptation of Doom,  which at one point briefly switches to a first-person perspective in order to mimic the game.

Cruise as William Cage is a case where by the end of the film it would be difficult to imagine someone else as the character. In regards to Cruise's own performance, it was fairly standard for what the actor does (his role as Cage being very comparable to his leading role in last year's  own science fiction film, "Oblivion"). 

Coming in as supporting cast member is Emily Blunt as Sergeant Rita Vrataski. Known for her prowess on the battlefield, Vrataski has become a symbol for humanity, appearing on not only television but propaganda posters as well. Her fierceness and cold demeanor  leads people to call her the "Full Metal Bitch" behind her back but it is Vrataski who believes Cage's story and subsequently the one who trains him. Emily Blunt as Vrataski perfectly captures what we are led to believe of Rita up until the point where she actually appears on screen. Despite a leading, male role, Blunt does more than hold her own in the film and from her introduction until the film's end, stays on an even level with Cruise. It never feels as if one actor is trying to one-up the other but rather the two play wonderfully off each other whether it's in their dialogue or on the battlefield.

As an action film "Edge of Tomorrow" never feels dull. The exoskeleton designs shun a sleek design in favor for a more complex appearance. Various wires run throughout, ensuring everything from regulating a soldier's bathroom needs to keeping track of his vitals. Fitted with various weapons, the armor has a rough appearance adding to the gritty feel of the war against mimics. Due to the nature of the plot, "Edge of Tomorrow" only has two set pieces. The first being the battle on the beach, and the second being the film's finale. The time-loop aspect however keeps things fresh and it never feels like the film is being too repetitive or dragging on for too long.

Given that the Mimics play a central role in the film, it is important to discuss their design. When thinking about more modern films with terrifying creatures than Ridley Scott's "Alien" must come to mind. The Mimics in "Edge of Tomorrow" would share a role then closer to that of the Alien in "Aliens," where a horror atmosphere is exchanged in favor for one of action and adventure. When the Mimics first appear it is difficult to even get a look at it due to how they battle. Despite being sizably large, the Mimics are incredibly fast and their bodies are sported by various tendril that whip back and forth. It isn't until one stops that we get to see the Mimic has a more metallic design similar to a Terminator but different in that it has the appearance of an alien animal. It fits extremely well, and the CG never sticks out in such a way that one's immersion is ruined.

While many concepts are borrowed from the source material, "Edge of Tomorrow" as a film manages to bring Sakurazaka's novel to life and creates something unique with its production design and blend of action and comedy.