Thursday, June 12, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

From a screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie (Valkyrie and Jack Reacher), director Doug Liman (three Jason Bourne films) delivers a smart and nimble thriller in Edge of Tomorrow, starring Tom Cruise as a man who seems to be caught in a "time loop" a la Groundhog Day. The latter is one of those films that people either love or hate; it has become a cult classic, but some tire of the "repeating day" conceit almost as quickly as Bill Murray's Phil character himself. But Groundhog Day is a romantic comedy. Would it make a difference if the guy in the time loop were a soldier on the front line of a war, discovering shocking truths about the enemy only to be killed and awake to live the same day over again? We didn't think it would, but thanks to quick pacing, careful editing and Mr. Cruise's reliable effort, the answer is yes.

The first act's scenes and dialogue, before the time loop confusion begins, could have been culled from any number of futuristic action films that feature scary alien invaders, sophisticated weaponry, caricatured commanding officers and near-certain death for GIs on the ground. Mr. Cruise plays Major William Cage, a guy who has never personally experienced battle and, perhaps because of his photogenic qualities, is being used by the military as a spokesperson who regularly appears on news programs to discuss an ongoing war with mysterious creatures who rode to Earth on asteroids. The aliens are winning the war, but just as despair starts to set in among the earthlings, a breakthrough occurs: a soldier, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), wearing a sort of robotic armor, single-handedly secures victory for the humans in Verdun, France. She does this with such a miraculous level of efficiency that she is hailed as a hero and it is thought that the new armor that made the difference. A major offensive is then planned, called operation downfall, to attack the enemy in Europe. Cage is summoned to London and told that he is to fight on the front line in this operation. He responds with incredulity but soon finds himself on a forward operating base (Heathrow Airport!) in a bewildering rush to war. And then things get interesting: the time loop begins (yes, we are told how), Cage meets Vrataski, and the rest is history. Or the future. Or something like that.

This is a bona fide action film, but its intelligence, its well-placed dashes of humor and romance, and the chemistry between its stars lift it above typical summer fare. As with any story that involves manipulation of time, there are logical questions that will bother you after you leave the theater. But then, any movie that keeps its audience pondering enigmatic plot points long after the credits have rolled is worth a look. So we recommend Edge of Tomorrow.

1 comment:

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