August 21, 2014

Film: Edge of Tomorrow—Again… Again and Again

 

Edge of Tomorrow tries to do too much with too little.

­­The premise of Tom Cruise’s latest film is what could be done differently, knowing what is about happen next. A great idea, if not original, it may be; but then why is Edge of Tomorrow so predictable?

PHOTO COURTESY OF WARNER BROS.

Film: <i>Edge of Tomorrow</i>—Again… Again and Again

Tom Cruise stars as Major William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow from Warner Bros.

Adapted from the 2004 novel “All You Need is Kill,” Cruise plays Maj. William Cage, a silver-tongued devil who’s better in front of the camera than on the battlefield. After being sent to the front lines in a fit of rage from his superior officer, Cage dies within minutes of landing on a Halo-meets-Saving Private Ryan beachfront. A gruesome mind meld with an “alpha” alien adversary allows him to relive the day over and over while teaming up with Rita Vrataski, who also once had the same odd power he once had. Sci-fi films usually go one of two ways: entrench the film in mythos so that the events unfolding carry a weight to it, or make exposition short and sweet, allowing characters to connect with the audience. Writers Christopher McQuarrie along with Jez and John-Henry Butterworth manage to do neither. The resetting gimmick doesn’t effectively show different vantage points in the story but shows a lack of content. There is room for character but, instead of letting the audience embrace it on their terms, they’re being force-fed how much of a hero Cage is, despite initially wearing the black hat. If anything, that seems to be Cruise’s biggest problem of the past decade. At this point in his career Cruise, as an actor and producer, seems more concerned about the image of Tom Cruise and not so much about the acting of Tom Cruise.

Consider Edge of Tomorrow, last year’s Oblivion, and 2012’s Jack Reacher. All guys with flaws who are inherently good that save the day somehow. Dig deeper and you’ll find Valkyrie and War of the Worlds. Same role, same mixed results. While most actors like this role, Cruise doesn’t delve deep enough to make his character’s redemption worth anything. It’s contrived. The actor’s best work has come from directors with a strong point of view like Oliver Stone, Stanley Kubrick, Paul Thomas Anderson, Cameron Crowe, or Michael Mann. When Cruise is producing/acting, the strong-arming is obvious. McQuarrie & Co. start out great making this sleazy, slimeball character out of Cage. By the time he’s become Bill and in love, Cruise is three-quarters of the way through his greatest hits. In Edge of Tomorrow, there isn’t Maj. Cage as much as a pinch of Jerry Maguire with that other guy who wasn’t The Last Samurai and it sets a chain reaction for the whole film.

Emily Blunt’s role as Vrataski, the Angel of Verdun, leaves so much to be desired. Blunt is the manic pixie dream girl of sci-fi where we really don’t care who she is or what she does just as long she helps the main guy and looks good in metal. There is so much unsaid that it’s no longer mysterious, it’s just lazy. Blunt can act. If Cruise wants to be this super-sized Messiah who comes in and saves the world (again), can we at least not make her a pedestrian? Nope. All we get is a sweaty yoga pose every 15 minutes.

Bill Paxton and Brandon Gleason also star in this but I’m sure these stalwart character actor’s want to move past this film. Keep gettin’ dem checks, boys.

Doug Liman is in line right behind them. He’s a good director but he’s resting on laurels. Examining relationships is his forte but there’s no impact. The main characters could’ve had sexual tension, PTSD occurrences, something. Instead the director fell so in love with the reset gimmick that everything else didn’t matter.

Eventually, Cage’s motivation for winning is Vrataski. With no build-up and ultimately, no resolution, what do we have? Also, is it too hard to get a little exposition outside of Tom Cruise, like maybe why the aliens decided to invade us? Did we take their wallet? I can tolerate the blatant sci-fi tropes and Matrix reduxes that litter this film because people will pay for that. Failing to complete a story, I cannot. He’s on the hook. The conversation we should be having is how wellEdge of Tomorrow works as a video game because it sure as hell doesn’t work as a film.