Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)
Oh to have been a discreet fly on the wall on that pitch meeting. I can picture it now gentle reader, the trembling junior producer nervously approaching the cigar chomping studio mogul’s vast mahogany desk, as P/A’s and aides circulate the domineering space in a cyclone of frenzied activity, of invoices to be signed, premieres to be RSVP’d, of script edits to be authorised. ‘Ya got 15 seconds kid’ grunts the mogul, ‘what ya got?’ His voice quivering, the producer begins ‘well….its a gritty SF action movie, based on a very popular Japanese novella, with humankind fighting a desperate…. ‘No, no, NO’, the mogul brusquely interrupts, ‘gimme a pitch, not war and fucking peace’. ‘OK’ stammers the perspiring producer, ‘it’s Saving Private Ryan meets Looper‘. The mogul blinks. Realizing he’s losing him the quivering producer makes a desperate fumble, ‘No sir, it’s err…it’s..’ – his eyes light up – ‘it’s Rashomon meets La Jetee‘ he anxiously beams. ‘RASHOMON?‘ barks the impatient mogul. ‘OK, OK’ the producer stammers, ‘it’s…erm…..Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day?‘, his affectation desperately raising on the last word. The mogul smiles, ‘Ya got yourself a deal kid’, a cheque for $150 million dollars mysteriously materializes and drifts down into the producer’s outstretched palm, and in two hours director Doug Liman and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie are off to the time twisted races….
Based on the murderously titled All You Need Is Kill this is the Cruisers latest punt into SF attuned action-movie waters after last years mildly distracting Oblivion, for my money this is a much more direct demolition of plutonium grade blockbuster fun with an efficiently disarming pretence at its core – I think it was Churchill who said that ‘death is not the end of the beginning, but the beginning of the end’. Cruise is Major William Cage, an advertising executive turned military communications envoy after a meteorite shatters into mainland Europe, releasing a horde of multi-tentacled ravenous critters who swiftly overrun the continent and threaten the very future of all mankind. After arriving in London Cage is blackmailed by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) into embedding with the first suicidal wave of a major counter offensive, a mission targeted on the historical war scarred beaches of Normandy, joining a rag-tag group of grunts armed to the pearly white teeth in new robotic exo-enhanced battle skeletons. The new technology provides an ineffective defence against the dazzlingly swift octopi enemy, and not even the presence of the morale boosting ‘Maiden of Verdun’ Rita Vrataski (an emasculating Emily Blunt) can turn the tide of battle, as the enemy had clearly anticipated the offensive and mercilessly slaughter the swiftly disembodied strike force. But there is a frantic complication, Cage is rebooted after every death to the day before the offensive to begin the mission anew, and he swiftly discovers that only Rita may hold the solution to his limbo lethal destiny…..
Edge Of Tomorrow is a lot of fun, and with a few reservations due to a slightly unimaginative final act it takes its unique selling point and instructs Tom Cruise to run with it like some otherworldly insectiod shived a firecracker up his scientology clenched ass. Not having read any reviews I’d stake the planets future on a wealth of comparisons to computer game narratives given the alignment of the younger medium’s designs and story-telling infrastructure, including re-spawn abilities, memorizing game maps and anticipating ambushes, building his initial pen-pushing white-collar coward into a bad-ass killing machine as he incrementally levels up his agility, dexterity and killing abilities. It’s from these elemental origins that the film builds a thoroughly entertaining and occasionally amusing momentum, not straying into any philosophical musings on such immortal abilities, instead training its crosshairs on sheer action movie techniques by championing epinephrine over existentialism.
I was a little worried about this picture when it opened with the frankly lazy 24 hour global news montage which is at best tedious 21st century movie shorthand to set the films narrative context, what happened to a good old-fashioned title crawl eh? After this an extended character driven cold opening – a rather brave choice these days when we’re conditioned to a blistering action set-piece to get the blood pumping – takes its time to set-up the universe and then incrementally builds the action and narrative twists, quite skillfully moving through its increasingly looped structure with a dash of potential romance here, a spigot of humour there, with exultingly executed action scenes stitching together the deja-vu dystopian destruction. As previously confessed I’m a fan of Cruise and he emits his usual efficient leading man star wattage, as a native Londoner it’s kinda fun to see him strutting around a deserted war evacuated big smoke, only a star with his international clout could have convinced Westminster Council to permit a helicopter to land in Trafalgar Square, a ‘stunt’ never permitted before so full marks to the producers for not resorting to the usual green screen manipulation. Following Gravity’s enormous success Edge Of Tomorrow was almost entirely shot in the UK, mostly at Warner Brothers studios in Leavesden and around other locations in the capital with a final shift to an eerie CGI soaked & flood drenched Paris, proving that our humble island is punching above its weight when it comes to efficient modern genre tent-pole productions. With the 70th anniversary of D-Day occurring next week (when the film opens in North America) the beach storming sequences lend the film a historical echo, less repetitively resonant of the deteriorating situation in the Ukraine than an ideologically desecrated UK should the hideous UKIP advance upon their European election ‘success’ (I dunno about you but emigration sounds more like an enticing option should those racist fucking twats continue to build their poisonous support during next year’s General Election), a once diversely proud world city rendered nothing more than a deserted plateau of racial sterility and Russian oligarch property speculators.
Heh, OK, the soapbox is now officially decanted, but one of reasonably decent SF’s chief strengths is in its underlying social and metaphorical DNA, right? Anyway, any SF film with Bill Paxton in it can’t be all bad – in this picture he’s a repeatedly glimpsed drill instructor during the opening act – as the only unfortunate wretch to have been killed by a Terminator, Predator and an Alien (though not at the same time, now that would be a movie) his brief appearance holds some fan boy fellated kudos, and Brendan Gleeson provides some hefty gravitas to the usually clichéd role of the inflexible military hierarchy. I really liked how the alien species in the picture is refreshingly, definitively ‘alien’, not another four limbed bipedal opponent with a few Star Trek inspired ridged forehead allusions to ‘otherness’, Edge Of Tomorrow also has a genuinely gloomy and murky visual palette which is illuminated with a few audience friendly cheeky Cruise wisecracks, without side-lining the always lovely Emily Blunt as some mere damsel in distress aside – with this and Looper under her belt she’s becoming quite the time-twisting trooper. So Thomas Cruise Mapother IV may find himself with yet another blockbuster hit on his hands in the genre stakes before Mission Impossible V lights a festive Christmas fuse late next year, now where was I – Ah yes. Oh to have been a discreet fly on the wall on that pitch meeting. I can picture it now gentle reader, the trembling junior producer nervously approaching the cigar chomping studio mogul’s vast mahogany desk……