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"EDGE OF TOMORROW"
(2014) (Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: A military officer must contend with being stuck in a time loop where he repeatedly relives the same day where alien invaders ambush the military assault directed against them.
PLOT:
Earth is under attack by extraterrestrial invaders known as Mimics that have landed on Earth and are destroying cities and killing millions. To counter the Mimics' ability to adapt to military countermeasures, the United Defense Force has created specialized armored and weaponized suits to do battle with the invaders. Using that and her prowess on the battlefield, Special Forces soldier Rita Vrataski (EMILY BLUNT) has become a figurehead for the resistance and spurred on a planned military invasion in France.

Accordingly, UFF General Brigham (BRENDAN GLEESON) wants the U.S. Army's PR man, Major William Cage (TOM CRUISE), to go along and film the invasion. Never a soldier and with a distaste for blood, Cage initially turns down the offer. When Brigham states it's an order, Cage tries to blackmail his way out of seeing combat. As a result, he's tasered, arrested, and wakes up at a military base under the command of Master Sergeant Farrell (BILL PAXTON). He's been informed that Cage is a deserter who's impersonated being an officer, and thus sticks him into the middle of his squadron.

Comprised of the likes of Griff (KICK GURRY), Kuntz (DRAGOMIR MRSIC), Nance (CHARLOTTE RILEY), Skinner (JONAS ARMSTRONG), Ford (FRANZ DRAMEH) and Kimmel (TONY WAY) among others, they're preparing to head up the invasion and don't look highly on Cage joining their unit. Without knowing what to do or how to operate his combat suit, Cage is thrust into the maelstrom along with the others, unaware that it's a Mimic ambush where everyone is killed, including Cage.

But he wakes up the next morning back at the base, repeating the events of the previous day, including the ambush and his death. As that day continues to rewind and repeat, Cage eventually meets Rita in battle, with her seeming to understand his quandary, even if she keeps meeting him for the first time each day. He eventually learns that she once suffered from the same condition he's now experiencing, and with the help of analyst Dr. Carter (NOAH TAYLOR), they try to figure out how to use his condition -- that's a direct connection to the Omega leader of the Mimics -- in order to prevent the ambush, move on after that, and find a way to defeat the invaders.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
The old saying (commonly attributed to Albert Einstein) is that the definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. If that's the case, I'm guessing the reason most houseflies don't live long is that they keep trying to get outside through a closed window, never change their actions, and thus eventually go crazy and perish from the futility of it all.

Higher life forms thankfully come equipped with brains powerful enough to try different things. Even so, many humans fall into that trap at one or more points in their lives, with some of them eventually exhibiting signs of learned helplessness where they believe that they've run out of options to solve whatever quandary they might be facing.

Granted, most of them likely aren't living the exact same moment or day over and over again. Yet, it does occasionally happen in the movies, with the most famous and popular example being that of "Groundhog Day" where meteorologist Phil Connors relives the titular 24 hours time and time again as the only person aware of the issue. After figuring that out, Bill Murray's character tries to escape the situation and then eventually uses what he learns each day to become a better person.

A more recent effort, "Source Code," put a sci-fi spin on that idea by having Jake Gyllenhaal play a military pilot stuck in a time loop that ends each day with an explosion of the train on which he's onboard. He must then use the clues he learns each day -- and carries over from one loop to the next -- to find and stop the responsible party.

Unlike "Groundhog Day" that didn't worry about explaining the particulars behind the loop, the newest such entry in this subgenre, "Edge of Tomorrow," goes the "Source Code" route in explaining the hows and whys regarding the explanation behind the protagonist repeating each day that always results in him being killed every time in order for the reset to occur.

In the film -- directed by Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity," "Mr. & Mrs. Smith") from Christopher McQuarrie & Jez Butterworth' adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka's "All You Need Is Kill" -- Tom Cruise plays Maj. William Cage, an army "talking head" PR man who does the news show circuit doing interviews about Earth's latest crisis. That involves whirling dervish type creatures (think of the sentinels from "The Matrix" as if mated with those "smaller" spinning contraptions from the "Transformers" flicks) that arrived via meteorites and are now taking over our third rock from the sun.

Spurred on by the success of warrior soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a Normandy type invasion is about to take place and the general in charge (Brendan Gleeson) wants to send Cruise's character to cover it. Maj. Cage thinks that's a bad idea (he's no soldier) and tries to blackmail his way out of harm's way. Instead, he gets tasered, wakes up on a military base (run by Bill Paxton's master sergeant character) where he's been labeled a deserter, and is thrown headfirst into the mission. Where he dies, only to repeat that time and again.

Aside from feeling perhaps a bit too much like a combo platter of "Groundhog Day" and "Source Code" and featuring an explanation behind the circular event that's likely too geeky for many an average moviegoer, the film is otherwise a diverting and often entertaining sci-fi offering with enough action, humor and wrap-your-head-around-the-sci-fi material to keep most viewers engaged during the pic's 110-some minute runtime. And fans of video games -- where one must learn and remember the history of successfully moving from one level to the next only to have to restart after being killed once again -- will likely enjoy the familiar scenario, even if they must be passive rather than active viewers.

As usual, Cruise gives it his all (starting by having fun playing against type in his character's early moments before segueing over to his more common form) and still has what it takes -- at the age of 51 -- to carry an action film. Blunt is okay playing the action heroine, but takes a back seat to the likes of what Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale and others of their gender have shown in terms of butt-kicking fury in other action flicks.

The filmmakers thankfully don't go with the fall in love, have sex route as the expected interaction between their characters. But there is some depth of caring on Cage's part as he comes to know the other character who must meet him for the first time over and over again. While all of that and the rest of the daily scenario could have become too repetitive and thus boring, the script mixes it up enough (especially through the use of some effective humor) and lets the viewer fill in some of the new storyline blanks to keep things interesting. Tech credits are solid across the board.

While the final scene might have some viewers scratching their heads in terms of whether it makes sense in regards to everything that transpired before it (not to mention the stated and implied "rules" of this particular storytelling universe), I found the overall pic entertaining enough to warrant a recommendation. If you're looking for an action film that's not your standard, brainless excuse for cinematic mayhem, "Edge of Tomorrow" may just fill the bill. It rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed June 2, 2014 / Posted June 6, 2014


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