It’s Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers in director Doug Liman’s latest sci-fi actioner; Tom Cruise play Bill Cage, a high-ranking military veteran who spends most of his time on news shows telling the public how the army – in this dystopian near-future – are sending hoards of our military boys out to fight weird alien squids who have taken over a chunk of the planet, and now threaten to invade London via the English Channel.
His boss, played by Brednan Gleeson, decides to send Cage onto the front line to fight. Against his will, he’s shipped off, and very quickly oriented with nary a nod to training, and killed in battle. He wakes up instantly to just before he’s initiated and relives the same day over and over again… until he’s killed. But he remembers stuff. He remembers his skills. He meets Rita (Emily Blunt) – a sort of “last boss” lady who’s badass and has been through this shit before. It occurs to me as I write this that Andie MacDowell’s character in Groundhog Day is Rita, as well.
Sounds like déjà vu, right? Well, yeah. I don’t mean that shitty Denzel movie. I mean the thing.
And thus, the immediate problems with Edge of Tomorrow are startlingly apparent no sooner than the opening credits; the movie has this indescribable “false” sheen all over it. The characters are not particularly well drawn. We don’t truly get a sense of rooting for the main character; and it’s just as well Cruise is playing Cage, because in the hands of another, the charisma may have been vacuumed from the entire soul. Sure, it’s nice to see the day repeat itself in inventive ways; one scene features Cage trying to sneak away from a PT session and bumbling his way into oblivion entirely by accident. It got a laugh. In some ways, it’s a pleasure to see Tom Cruise (for once) die. Probably a good twenty or thirty times.
I much prefer the original title “All You Need is Kill” because that’s truly where the film earns its points. When things threaten to turn sour, Cruise – or perhaps Blunt – knowingly will blast him in the head so they can effectively “respawn”. Edge of Tomorrow as a title means very little to me.
“Respawn” – ah, now you’re on to something.
Here’s another thing I thought I was safely relegating to the retirement home in terms of niggles; the CGI. I care less than half a piss about special effects at the best of times, but the computer generated effects here seem half-baked. It may have something to do with the Goddamned distracting 3D (for fuck’s sake, see this in 2D if you really have to) – these alien octopus things are so quick, so volatile and so snappy that they look like a bad after effect afterthought. Thankfully they’re barely on screen and, happily, there are only about two of them. The little red ones who are merely mildly inconveniencing – and the big blue one(s) – and I’d better to describe them too much for fear of spoiling anything.
The supporting cast strengthen the grade around here. Bill Paxton, bless ‘im, has clearly been told to “take a large chunk out of Sgt Gun. Hartman from Full Metal Jacket and give it a dead Brillo scrubbing somewhere between Terence Stamp in Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the PG-13 rating. Tony Way, a regular Brit stalwart, and a bevvy of fairly engaging characters form Cage’s “J Team” (I think that’s what they were called) – and yet, they’re mostly at the mercy of repetition as they react as you’d expect to Cage’s ever expanding foreshadowing of events.
I’m still struggling with the title, here. Maybe “Respawn Reptiles?”
And then there’s Emily Blunt. Lately, Cruise has hooked up with Brit chicks to star alongside him in his sci-fi duties, and in Emily Blunt he’s struck gold. She’s stoic, holds her own sense of bravado – and, very happily – she’s nothing like whatserfuckingface Cocker-knee lass out off of Oblivion. She seems to have been given the Verhoeven treatment that Nancy Allen received in RoboCop – (e.g. the Tilda Swinton test) – “man” her up as much as possible, but reign it back just a bit. There are whole swathes of the movie where you’d forget she’s a woman. The movie clearly has a problem with women in general. There aren’t any in it for a start. And newsreaders don’t count.
Sure, there are some good bits in this (but I shan’t spoil them) – and the final act is not one of them. The last half an hour is so infuriatingly straightforward and rote that I began to nod off. The good bits are more or less expertly crafted lines of dialogue. Alas, there are not enough of them.
Okay, how about “Tomorrow’s Edge”?
I dunno. On paper this should all work. I gather the source material with the original name works a treat and is very popular. The script is penned by Christopher “Jack Fucking Reacher” McQuarrie and – on the basis of this latest submission – clearly hasn’t got the guts to fight back over the phone when Cruise calls him at 4am and suggests new ideas. On the big screen – meh, something is missing. What is it? What is it?!
Ask yourself a question – do you want to see a PG-rated Starship Troopers doing certainly nothing new with the Groundhog Day concept and managing to replay approximately 57% of its magic? Answer honestly… because that’s what you’re going to get
Author: Andrew MacKay