Edge of Tomorrow Today!

I like Tom Cruise as an actor. I mentioned this when I wrote about Oblivion last year: the dude is a really good actor. It can be hard sometimes to separate one’s mental image of Cruise from the characters he plays. He’s one of the most famous people in the world, just say the name “Tom Cruise” and probably every single person within earshot will automatically know who you’re talking about. His reputation precedes him, which sometimes works to the disadvantage of the movies he’s in.

But with his latest movie, Edge of Tomorrow, I didn’t have much trouble separating Cruise’s public persona from the character he plays.

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Cruise plays Major William Cage, a military PR guy who has never seen a day of combat. Mankind is at war with a race of shape-shifting aliens called Mimics, and, as is so often the case in movies, we are losing. On the eve of a massive invasion of Mimic-controlled continental Europe (ominously called Operation Downfall), Cage is told by General Brigham (played by Brendan Gleeson, aka Mad Eye Moody), the commander of the invasion force, that he will be dispatched to the front lines on the beaches of France the next day. In his reluctance to comply with this order, Cage attempts to blackmail the general, which results in his getting busted down to Private and sent to the army base at Heathrow Airport, where he will deploy with the rest of the grunts the following day.

The next day, he is deployed on the front lines, where the invasion fails spectacularly. The mimics have somehow anticipated the attack, and annihilate the invasion force. Cage manages to kill a particularly large mimic by blowing it up with an explosive, but is doused with the creature’s blood and dies in the process.

He then wakes up the previous morning at Heathrow Airport, and meets many of the same people and hears many of the same things all over again. He becomes stuck in a time loop, repeatedly dying in the invasion and reawakening the previous day.

He tries during several of these time loops to convince people that the invasion will fail, but of course no one believes him. It isn’t until he meets Sergeant Rita Vrataski (played by Emily Blunt) on the battlefield that he gains an ally. It turns out that she too once had the time-resetting ability, and she trains him to fight the Mimics. Cage becomes more proficient in combat with each repetition and he and Rita develop a plan to destroy the Mimics. He also begins to develop feelings for the hardboiled Sergeant Vrataski, which are somewhat stymied by the fact that every time he meets her, for her it’s the first time.

The most obvious way to describe this movie is as a sci-fi version of the Bill Murray/Harold Ramis classic Groundhog Day, only with more explosions, aliens, and badass metal exosuits.

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But I think that simply dismissing Edge of Tomorrow as “Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers” is, while admittedly somewhat accurate, not really fair to the movie, since it manages to have a life and an identity of its own. Sure, there are similarities. Major William Cage is self-centered and smooth-talking at the beginning of the movie, and gradually learns to be a better person, much like Phil Connors in Groundhog Day. The biggest difference is that Cage is also trying to, you know, save the world from vicious shape-shifting aliens.

The aliens themselves look really cool and original. They made me think of a number of different things, ranging from spiders and squids to the robotic Sentinels from the Matrix.

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You can’t really make out too many details here, but this is the best picture I could find. Suffice to say that they are some seriously mean customers. I wouldn’t want to fight them once, let alone over and over and over, as Cage does.

The exosuits, called Jackets in the movie, are also very cool. They’re kind of reminiscent of Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley’s exosuits in Elysium, but on steroids.

edge of tomorrow poster

Man, I really liked this movie. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much I liked it. The movie was directed by Doug Liman, who had a pair of hits in the early 2000’s with The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but has been in something of a rut since then. This movie should help him reestablish himself, though. He gives the movie an elegant balance of action, plot, character development, hints of romance, and a healthy amount of dark comedy.

And it is a darkly funny movie, which mines quite a bit of humor from the various ways in which Cruise’s character repeatedly meets his end. He gets shot, drowned, blown up, run over, and crushed by falling dropships. There are a couple of very funny moments in particular where he is about to succeed gloriously, only to get plastered by a truck or something and have to start over.

The film also benefits from strong performances from both of its lead actors. Cruise is a natural as a PR guy, and we all know from countless other movies that he is more than capable of kicking ass when he needs to.

Emily Blunt is also really great. She was awesome in Looper, which is one of my favorite movies, and she’s equally good here. It’s a tricky role, and Blunt really sells it. She’s completely believable as an alien-killing badass, but there’s also a strong sense that there’s a lot going on with her beneath her steely demeanor and impressive biceps that make for a continually interesting character. I read that she trained for three months for the role, and it shows.

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She and Cruise have really great chemistry, and the movie wouldn’t work nearly as well without them.

The action scenes and special effects look great, too. I know I’ve been saying that a lot in my recent movie reviews, but it’s true. This is a really good-looking movie, and not just because of Emily Blunt.

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Doug Liman likes this particular shot so much that he reuses it several times throughout the movie, and I have a hard time finding fault with him for that.

The movie is about as gritty and realistic as a high-concept sci-fi movie is capable of being. The main invasion scene(s) has a sort of sci-fi Saving Private Ryan vibe (minus the gore), which contributes to the movie’s gritty feel. This is light-years away from the candy-colored visuals of Michael Bay’s Transformers films.

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Overall, this is a really good movie. Sure, it may be easy to find the DNA of several other films imprinted on it. But it still manages to be its own movie, and is one of the most pleasant surprises of the summer movie season for me so far.

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I, Frankendud

Dear Aaron Eckhart,

Hello. My name is Colin. I’m a fan, and I am worried.

I recently watched your latest movie, I, Frankenstein, which I rented for five bucks on Xbox Live. It was so bad that I felt compelled to write this to you, because ever since The Dark Knight in 2008, you have been repeatedly squandering your not-inconsiderable talent on movies that are at best forgettable and at worst crap-awful.

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I mean, look at that face. That is the face of a man who was born to be in movies. But you’re wasting it.

Seriously: look at the evidence.

Battle: Los Angeles was, I thought, a decently entertaining action movie, but it was extremely forgettable. It’s the kind of movie that evaporates from your memory the moment it’s over. I feel that it’s also worth mentioning that the late, great Roger Ebert gave this movie a rating of one-half of one star.

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Erased was a movie I rented for free on Xbox Live a while back and it was so incredibly boring that I lost interest in it before it was even halfway over. To this day I could not tell you one single thing about it. Hell, you probably couldn’t either, and you starred in it!

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Olympus Has Fallen was okay, but was still ultimately pretty forgettable. Although you were a pretty awesome movie president, and as I have said in a previous post, I would absolutely vote for you in real life.

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And although it was pre-Dark Knight, The Core is still one of the absolute biggest piles of crap I have ever seen in my life. I’m not going to even bother doing a Google search for a poster of it because doing so would demoralize my computer so much that it would probably just spontaneously shut down and refuse to work again.

All of this brings us to I, Frankenstein, a movie so hilariously bad that I was chuckling the entire way through. I’m generally pretty good when it comes to the old Willing Suspension of Disbelief, but with I, Frankenstein I just couldn’t do it.

I-Frankenstein poster

It’s almost as if the whole movie was an elaborate attempt to make its actors say the stupidest things imaginable whilst attempting to be as serious as possible. Let me ask you something, Aaron: was there a lot of laughter on the set of this film? Were there a lot of takes ruined by guffaws at some of the incredibly stupid lines of dialogue?

Seriously, I want to know. This is a movie in which Bill “Davy Jones” Nighy actually says “I am a demon prince,” and Miranda “Eowyn” Otto somehow manages to keep a straight face while saying “I am the High Queen of the Gargoyle Order,” an achievement for which she surely deserves some kind of award.

And the lovely Yvonne Strahovski, who has to be one of the most beautiful women in existence, gets saddled with the line “You go meet with the gargoyle queen and I’ll meet you back here in an hour,” which is a line that sounds it like came out of a supernatural version of Gray’s Anatomy or something.

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The poor woman deserves better and so do you, Aaron.

The plot of the movie is something that feels like it’s been lifted from at least half a dozen other movies. The whole “secret war between supernatural and/or otherworldly forces that only a select few are aware of” thing has been done so many times before: Blade, Underworld, Van Helsing, Men in Black, hell, even The Matrix could fall into this category. Much like Frankenstein’s monster himself, the plot seems stitched together from the corpses of other, better movies, all of which are dead on arrival.

For God’s sake, two of the main characters are named Naberius and Zuriel, which sound like the names a Goth teenager would come up with for their Harry Potter fan fiction.

The movie is full of fights and special effects, but none of them resonate. Demons die in fiery orange flashes and gargoyles die in bright streaks of light, but it’s next to impossible to give a damn about any of it. None of it carries any weight at all. It really is no wonder the movie has a dismal 4% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Look at this picture and imagine in your mind the sound of a balloon deflating, or perhaps a whoopee cushion going off, and you’ll have an idea of what watching this movie is like.

On a completely unrelated note, I just now spelled “whoopee” with two P’s, and my computer autocorrected it to have only one P, which I find hilarious for some reason.

My point, Aaron, is that you are squandering your talent. I don’t know if you need to fire your agent or something, but seriously, something needs to be done. I don’t want you to waste the rest of your career making this kind of drivel. You’re only 46 dude, you’ve still got time to turn this around! If Matthew McConaughey can win an Oscar, so can you. Go out there and find your Oscar-winning role, and stop making dreck like I, Frankenstein!

I know you can do it, man. Times may be tough, but I have faith in you.

Sincerely,

A concerned but hopeful fan, Colin M.