Edge of Tomorrow: Perfect Formula for Block Buster Fun

By Sandra Olmsted

A formula to create a blockbuster film has long been desired by Hollywood, and director Doug Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, working from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s manga novel All You Need Is Kill, may have stumbled onto one here.

The result, Edge of Tomorrow, despite its soap opera-esque title, provides a satisfying, popcorn-spilling, movie-going experience. The tongue-in-cheek attitude that permeates the film evokes more Groundhog Day than other films about characters caught in a do-loop of repeating time.

Tom Cruise also gives a surprisingly self-deprecating performance which makes his character, U.S. Army Major William Cage, more appealing and adds to the humor. Just in time for the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, Liman doctors up that revising and re-experiencing of history with a healthy scoop of nostalgic and homage to The Longest Day  and peppers his whole film with more homages to the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan and the misfit squad and an assassination mission from The Dirty Dozen.

Liman then bakes Edge of Tomorrow in a sci-fi adventure oven at a temperature of space alien invasion for 113 minutes. If the filmmakers can repeat the phenomenon next summer, they will have the Holy Grail of Hollywood —the perfect formula for a box office smash. However, judgment should be reserved until they counts Edge of Tomorrow’s opening weekend box office.

In Edge of Tomorrow, aliens called Mimics have landed on earth and taken over Europe, and the United Defense Force plans to invade Europe through France with its multinational army. Cage, an ad executive recruited to spin the war, creates the “Angel of Verdun” using the heroism of Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a woman who fought in the only battle the aliens have lost.

When ordered by Gen. Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to film the Normandy Invasion redux from the front lines, Cage reveals a cowardice that gets him arrested for desertion. He wakes up as a private assigned to a squad of ex-cons and roughians. With only a day to train for the big battle and on how to use the armored suits that augment the soldiers’ fighting ability, Cage dies also immediately on hitting the beach, but not before showing a little backbone.

Then he wakes again on the day before the battle and must live it again and learn from his mistakes. Eventually, he learns that Rita had a similar experience at Verdun and together they set out to destroy the “central nervous system” of the aliens. Whenever they fail, they “reset the day” by killing Cage, who then awakens earlier in time and sometimes an alternate history.

A film so derivative generally would not be a good film, but Liman makes it work with the help of a talented cast and crew. While the reboot of Cage and Rita’s adventure evokes video games where the characters die and start the adventure again, the logic of Cage reliving time works in the futuristic world created for the film. Oliver Scholl’s detailed production design coupled with James Herbert and Laura Jennings’ editing and Dion Beebe’s cinematography keep Cage’s returns to the past compelling by using enough familiar image and variations to keep audience anchored in the story.

Their collective work on the action sequence also provide the excitement of grizzly battles which use 3D nicely to increase the power of their images. Special effects provide needed realism to a story which requires so much suspension of disbelief, and the 3D adds a welcome additional level of entertainment to this summer popcorn film.

Invading theaters Friday June 6, Edge of Tomorrow, a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material and 113 riveting minutes. (More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at <www.thecinematicskinny.com>.)

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