Thursday, 5 June 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Is it a stinker or a hit? I admit I watched this just to see Tom Cruise die over and over again!

Edge of Tomorrow is the Groundhog Day of alien invasion flicks. During the ominously codenamed Operation Downfall invasion of Normandy beach to take back Europe from the aliens, the worst ever soldier alive (Tom Cruise as a smarmy army spin doctor who gets assigned to front-line combat when he pisses off the CO) finds himself dead within 5 minutes of combat, only to relieve the day over and over again. Like the original Groundhog Day, hilarity ensues as our hapless cad learns to be a better soldier, better person, and save the planet.

That's not to say that Edge of Tomorrow is anything new. It's a mash-up of the two oldest sci-fi tropes to hit the big screen. What's new is for once, we get a big budget movie with the biggest, most charismatic movie star alive today. There is a certain appeal in seeing Tom Cruise die over and over again on the big screen, just to see him mug for the camera over and over again to give future youtubers enough shots to make a Tom Cruise Faces of Death compilation.

Yes, part of this movie's charm lies in its self-aware humour. The aliens may be winning, the war seems unwinnable, our protagonist seems unable to press his advantage—but isn't watching Tom Cruise die over and over again fun? Emily Blunt plays the best role she's played so far in her acting career: a war veteran and hero whose role is not so much a love interest but a merciless mentor who ends up killing Tom Cruise more often than the aliens.

It's all fun and games in the first 2 acts until the film is enters its puzzle-solving phase. How on earth would one make use of one's certain death and reset to win a war? There are some clever video games that require a gamer to sacrifice his avatar in order to solve a puzzle upon respawning. Clearly the scriptwriters of Edge of Tomorrow have played some of them. While dependent on some amount of repetition, the story manages not to be tedious and branches off into unexpected territory every once in a while.

Yet the scriptwriters also seem to have not played enough of these games. The film's third act has both the protagonist and his mentor forget the lessons they've learnt from and about his Groundhog power, and achieve their eventual victory in a far less convincing manner than you'd expect from how cleverly the premise is laid out and developed in the past 2 acts.

Edge of Tomorrow may be flawed. It may not say anything new. But I'd still watch it just to see Tom Cruise die over and over again.

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