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Review: ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ is the compelling lovechild of ‘Groundhog Day’ & ‘Starship Troopers’

Review: 'Edge of Tomorrow' is the compelling lovechild of 'Groundhog Day' & 'Starship Troopers'

There was never a time in my life where I thought I’d need to compare a war-is-hell science

fiction action film to “Groundhog Day,” but I guess there’s a first time for everything. 

Based on the light

novel “All You Need Is Kill” by Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka, “Edge of Tomorrow” is the strange

yet no less compelling lovechild of “Groundhog Day” and “Starship Troopers,” with the high-concept

premise and humor of the former and pulpy action of the latter in tact. It may not be as smart as it

could’ve been in the broad strokes, but a clever, well-acted thrill ride like this doesn’t really need to

have its head fully in the game, now does it?

 

Not to say that its story or overall set-up isn’t inspired. Combat-adaptable aliens called Mimics

invade Earth and begin to ravage Western Europe and the world’s armed forces. Major William Cage

(Tom Cruise) is unwittingly drafted into an infantry squad to fight the Mimics head-on, even though

his background in creating military commercials has left him with zero combat experience. Needless to

say, he dies instantly on the day that humanity decides to storm the beaches of France, but not without

killing one of the special Alpha Mimics and learning the secret of their power: they control time by

dying and restarting the same day and, more or less, knowing the future. Armed with this power, Cage

relives the same day over and over again attempting to beat the Mimics at their own game, with help

from Rita Vrtasaki (Emily Blunt), a top-ranked killer of Mimics who also used their time manipulation

powers to win a previous battle in Verdun.

No sci-fi action romp since “Pacific Rim” has struck me the way that “Edge of Tomorrow” did, and

like its spiritual cousin, “Tomorrow” embraces genre clichés in a way that’s earnest without feeling trite.

The appropriate amount of humor is wrung out of the base concept of re-living the day until you fulfill

a certain requirement, with Cage repeating phrases and attempting to stay alive long enough to come

up with another plan, but it’s also grounds enough for director Douglas Liman and editor James Herbert

and Laura Jennings cut the film at a breakneck pace. Once it becomes clear how Cage’s newfound

power works, the film plays fast and loose with events we’ve already seen, sometimes for comedic

effect, sometimes to emphasize the poignancy of having to re-live a day filled with violence over and

over again.

It also helps that the cast is willing to make leaps between emotional extremes that don’t feel too

jarring or out-of-place. Bill Paxton brings just the right amount of snarking caricature to Master

Sergeant Farell, while the members of J-Squad, from Gambian-British actor Franz Drameh’s Ford to

Jonas Armstrong’s Skinner run the gamut of stereotypes of Black, Irish, British, and American

Southern peoples, at least they’re bringing their all to it. 

The break-out star of “Tomorrow” turns out to be

Emily Blunt. From her supporting roles in “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Wolfman,” she’s shown

hidden depths that Hollywood hasn’t tried to plumb, but here she’s allowed to cut loose in an action-
oriented hard-ass role that many female actresses don’t get the luxury of doing often. She manages to

embody the title of the “Full Metal Bitch” in a way that doesn’t deride from her presence as the co-lead

of the movie with the dwarfed-by-comparison Cruise.

I find it worrying that the Japanese story this is based off of, has been whitewashed in a way,

and the hovering issue of cultural appropriation can’t help but loom large, especially given the lack of

Asian exposure in Hollywood cinema (notably ironic since China/Japan are now extremely lucrative

international box offices), but I’d be more willing to beat that dead horse if the movie weren’t very

good, and “Edge of Tomorrow” is definitely a thrilling though not revelatory, thoughtful though not quite

intelligent sci-fi action flick that serves to remind that even a leanly-constructed military film can be

made better by watching Tom Cruise get hit by a car 16 times.

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