Groundhogs from Space!
Edge of Tomorrow
Oh boy, we are deep in Philip K. Dick territory with this one; but it’s PKD with a laugh-track behind it. Yes, that’s right: Tom Cruise’s latest hardcore science fiction outing, Edge of Tomorrow is not only 100% geared towards pure entertainment, it is also pretty damned funny. In fact, it manages to pull off the tricky task of being serious without taking itself too seriously; which, in itself, is the kind of paradox that belongs in a film like this.
Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) kicks the movie off with one of those fake newsreel thingies that incorporate real anchor people. It used to be amusing but it’s getting a bit old now—but that’s OK. Then Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) appears, addressing the screen and quickly bringing us up to date on the fact that the earth suffered another alien invasion five years previously and has been getting whipped on a regular basis—and that’s not so OK because it appears that Cruise will once again be playing a no-holds-barred, get-the-job done action hero and that’s getting as regular as alien invasions. However…
In fact, wee Tom is only talking tough because he has made it his mission possible in life to stay as far away from anything that could get him killed or even sprain a pinkie as he can. In other words he has become an army spin doctor, better with a sound bite than with a gun and happy to encourage other people to die as long as he doesn’t have to.
Kind of like Tony Blair in a uniform.
Not only is he an unapologetically slimy coward and creep (again, Blair) but he is not above trying to blackmail General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) in order to get out of serving on the front line. And that is a really bad idea because in this movie Gleeson looks frigging ginormous (especially next to wee Tom) and doesn’t like being threatened.
And thus Major Cage is demoted to Private, forced to join a company who have been told that he is a deserter, dropped on a beach in the middle of a bloodbath, appears to soil his battle-suit and is promptly killed. At which point he wakes up, is forced to join a company who have been told that he is a deserter and…well, you get the idea. Yes, it’s Groundhog Day or maybe Source Code but no matter what it is, we’re going to be looking at certain scenes over and over whilst Cage learns from them and tries to manipulate the situation in which he finds himself.
Or are we? Actually, Liman cleverly repeats the scenes necessary for us to establish what is going on without ever boring us. It’s very clever and I’ll let you find out how for yourselves.
A great piece of casting is Emily Blunt as his partner, the battle-hardened Sergeant Rita Vrataski, known to even her friends as the ‘full metal bitch’. I’ve been intrigued by Blunt’s style since The Adjustment Bureau and the remake of The Wolf Man. She is astonishingly beautiful, although not in a conventional sense, whatever that is. Strong is perhaps what I’m looking for. Think of Rebecca Loos. Remember her? Used to be a PR or something to the Beckhams until she didn’t have an affair with David, according to him; and then went on to further fame on a reality show where she apparently tossed off a farmyard animal. Classy.
Well, Emily Blunt looks a bit like Rebecca, except that she is far more attractive and has actual talent and loads of it. Her character is the heroine of the only encounter that Earth’s Coalition of the Willing has won, at Verdun in France. I have a feeling that I’m supposed to take something from the repeated references to this World War One battle but I’m going to refrain from cheating with Google until I’ve finished writing this. What I did pick up on was the apocalypse on the beach, Saving Private Ryan-style. It was also rather shocking to see it after having read so much about the anniversary of the D Day Landings only recently. I wonder if that was intentional or just a coincidence with the filming.
The great Bill Paxton is in fine form as Master Sergeant Farell, as ever effortlessly out-acting everyone around him whenever he is on screen.
And I just have to mention the aliens, since I’m always moaning about the overuse of CGI. Well, these things are bloody incredible. Known as Mimics, they are like a bunch of utterly terrifying tentacles revolving at a crazy rate like a bombed-out octopus on speed. Great stuff.
I hear that this film is regarded as being a flop, which got me curious. So I did something that I don’t often bother with too much and had a look at its background. It has to date made almost $300 million and that would sound rather respectable; but then you see the budget of $178 million and you begin to make strange noises. But the figure that utterly baffles me is the one that says $100 million was spent on marketing? Am I getting that right? Good Lord, someone must have lost their senses. Apart from the fact that I wasn’t particularly aware of it, I attended a screening in my local multiplex yesterday afternoon and as I was looking at a lot of kids buying tickets I was reasonably certain it wasn’t to see the latest Tom Cruise movie, those days being gone. And I was right. Why on earth so much would be spent on marketing is beyond me, especially when it was to no point.
And of course it is truly shocking that a movie that can make $300 million can be regarded as a failure.
By the way, the original screenplay was by Dante Harper; but the script went through so many hands that I’m not going to bother listing them all.
Also, and I’m beginning to sound like a broken record here: give Cruise a break. Forget about his wacky religious beliefs. He has given us some terrific performances over the years, being particularly good value for genre fans. He is more hit than miss, that’s for sure; and I’m including right up to last year’s woefully undervalued Oblivion.
Edge of Tomorrow isn’t as good as that one or the somewhat similar Source Code; but it is solid entertainment and deserves to do well.