What to Expect?
There’s something about Tom Cruise. Love him or hate him, he’s always around the scene, chasing bad guys and pulling off risky ones throughout. Let’s all agree though that Cruise seems to have put in lesser and lesser heart in his consecutive roles till date. Not that it’s entirely his fault: movies like Oblivion and Jack Reacher didn’t seem to help him in too many ways, really. While the former was a decent homage to science-fiction movies of yore, the latter was an old fashioned thriller featuring the badass protagonist-with-the-skills-and-the-attitude. While the visually impressive former had extremely mixed reception for genuine reasons of screenplay and character development, the latter had a very inconsistent box-office reception despite actually being interestingly well-directed and edited.
On the other hand there’s Doug Liman, who’s not been having a great time living up to his expectations post The Bourne Identity. While Mr. & Mrs. Smith was an extremely well-cast, well-directed romance-action caper that wasn’t really extraordinary per se, it was Jumper that gave him the ultimate pulldown, despite looking very promising. With him being back on track wowing critics with his focused execution of the adapted screenplay of Fair Game, the box-office was another story altogether.
Which makes this an absolutely important film for both Liman and Cruise, and there are three reasons why:
- For Liman, things look nice enough. He’s got his screenwriting team from Fair Game back here, joined by writer-director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) to form what looks like a pretty solid screenwriting collaboration on paper.
- Apart from the inclusion of McQuarrie, what also looks hopeful for Cruise here is that the trailers are genuinely interesting, and his role looks fairly unique and wrapped up in mystery.
- This could as well be the summer blockbuster movie everyone’s been waiting for in a long time. For once – despite looking derivative, what with linkages to Groundhog Day and Source Code – this one definitely generates a lot of curiosity nevertheless.
So does the movie erase any doubts? Does it meet the expectations built through its solidly edited trailers and spots? Or does it end up being another one of those bland, generic sci-fi actioners?
What’s it About?
In the near future, the Earth is attacked by a host of peculiar extraterrestrials. Just when everybody thought the war was won, they attack back with full force in one of the assigned battles. The one forcibly thrown into this battle is the reluctant Major William Cage (Tom Cruise; Jack Reacher), who inexplicably blacks out during battle, about to die.
Almost immediately though, he wakes up the day before, about to be forcibly deployed for the same war he just fought to die in. As it slowly dawns on him that he’s stuck in a time loop that resets when he dies, he realizes that the only way to end this would be to win this war. And the only person who can help him in this fight is Special Forces solder Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt; The Adjustment Bureau).
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Liman’s execution of the screen adaptation of The Bourne Identity gave ground to a pattern of quick cuts, handheld camerawork and realistic action set-pieces. While the only one who could follow this technique to hilt through its execution was the succeeding franchise director Paul Greengrass, what Liman did in the film was just the perfect blend of action and pace. When he tried to utilize similar stylistic elements with the added visual-effects thrown into Jumper, it didn’t work as much. Instead, it disintegrated into an unemotional showreel that could have been so much more with the strong concept of the source the makers were adapting. With this film, however, Liman doesn’t do the same. He gives the action some breathing space, allowing the atmosphere to dig into the viewer and the impact shots arrive from nowhere make you jump out of your seat. This is not all, however. This writer is extremely happy to state that Liman is officially back in full form with Edge of Tomorrow. The straightforward, fairly pacy screenwriting by the trio of Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Christopher McQuarrie inherits quite the strongly logical sci-fi background, gives the characters an excellent breathable, evolutionary graph, which allows the viewers to strongly root for them. Also infused through the later sections of the time loop is a brand of dry humor that will surprise the viewers very pleasantly before making them laugh. Liman seems totally confident of the material he’s directing. It’s almost like he knows the rhythm of the film – how the movie’s semi-dystopian near future should look and feel, how the characters should behave with the world and with each other, and how the antagonists actually are. The chemistry the lead characters share is an absolutely complicated one to execute (considering one knows what’s about to happen and one doesn’t, again and again), however, the brilliance with which it comes alive on screen is to be seen.
This could most possibly be Liman’s most visually arresting movie from his ever-dynamic (Swingers, Fair Game) repertoire, and that shows. Dion Beebe’s (Collateral, Memoirs of a Geisha) breathtaking cinematography covers the ruins of the future with a beautiful mix of extra wide-angle, and some close-up shots. This writer appreciates how some impact shots have the objects set to the middle of the frame to give an extra push to the effectively rendered 3D of the movie. That’s not to say it’s any different from the 3D gimmickry of the other films. This film, on the contrary has the shots translating perfectly on screen. The camera operations support the cinematographers’ vision deftly. James Herbert and Laura Jennings’ combined effort at editing has worked really well for the film. The movie has action scenes that absorb pretty well. The jump cuts through further different parts of the time loop to ellipses make the movie pacy, and at the right times extremely humorous. Production design is tastefully slick and stylish. The art direction of major locations look realistic. Christophe Beck’s (RED) score is awesome. The epic ambience supports the edge-of-the-seat action set-pieces superbly.
Considering the writer of this article has been raving on and on about this film, it shoul definitely be a classic, right? Well, not quite. What could possibly be the problem then? The only problem here seems to be the interestingly written ending, which will generate an absolutely divisive response among the audience. That, of course, coupled with any bias for Tom Cruise (considering he recent track record until this movie) might dampen the viewing pleasure of the film for some people. How the movie is lapped up, however, is to be seen.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Every Tom Cruise movie has a lot of expectations, even if it’s a movie unlike him (remember Rock of Ages?). Now while this movie makes him look conventional enough with its promotional material, what’s shown in the movie of him is far different. Supported by an able character backstory, Cruise digs his all into this role, and it shows. Right from the intensity and fear he exhibits initially during battle to the comedic scenes, he handles all of them perfectly. Of course, it comes as no surprise that the action set-pieces that he throws himself in through the later portions of the film are absolutely convincing. Might I dare say, this is effectively Cruise’s best performance in a long, long time now. Emily Blunt is confident as hell, and blazes past the screen like she owns the role. She seems to have trained hard for it, and it actually shows. Bill Paxton is hilarious, and absolute fun, what with his character’s absolute sarcasm switched on throughout the film. Brendan Gleeson (Safe House) performs very well as the General, and so does Noah Taylor. Others give great support.
Absolutely! Despite the mixed expectations, Edge of Tomorrow turns out to be an excellently screen-written and filmed sci-fi actioner that keeps you on the edge of your seat right till the end of the film. Supported by arresting visuals, superb action set-pieces, fantastic performances by Cruise and Blunt and the overall finesse in direction by Liman, this film is an absolute must-watch, and on the IMAX screen, nonetheless. And if you’ve still got doubts, this writer’s got three simple words to impart to all of you:
Watch. Enjoy. Repeat.
Star Rating: 4.5 / 5
PS: So who’s waiting for Liman’s next Splinter Cell adaptation now?