The Fresh Perspective: Edge of Tomorrow

Some things work better together than they do apart. Peanut butter and chocolate are both delicious on their own, but as any avid trick-or-treater can attest, they’re yummier together, even when it’s one of those sketchy off-brand candies that every house gives out by the handful. Tortilla chips are full of salty deliciousness, but add some salsa into the equation and you’ve got the perfect snack for a Breaking Bad binge.

Hiroshi Sakurazaka was clearly aware of this when he wrote All You Need Is Kill, a sci-fi novel that combines Groundhog Day with things that would’ve made Bill Murray’s life a nightmare: aliens and Halo-esque armored suits called “Jackets.” Mankind is locked in a war with a powerful alien race called “Mimics,” and despite the Jackets, mankind is losing. Keiji Kiriya, a green Japanese soldier, joins the fight only to be killed in his first battle. Much to his surprise, Keiji wakes up in his bed, one day before he ships out to war. With every death, Keiji reawakens the day before battle, and he uses each relived day to hone his combat abilities. Rita Vrataski, a skilled Jacket soldier, becomes an ally and the two work together to defeat the Mimics.

Sakurazaka said that the inspiration for All You Need is Kill came from playing video games. With each death, the level restarts and you’re slightly more experienced at the game. Your skills grow with every lost life until you finally clear the level. Someone at Warner Bros. Pictures must’ve been willing to fling some cash at that idea, and in 2014, an American adaptation of All You Need is Kill, entitled Edge of Tomorrow, found its way onto the silver screen. Starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow, much like a cruise missile filled with confetti, is explosively fun. Excellent effects, pacing, action, acting, and dark humor make it a winner on all fronts.

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Edge of Tomorrow’s plot has the same skeletal structure as All You Need is Kill, but the skin, organs, and nervous system are all unique. The year is 2054, and an asteroid has brought the Mimics to Earth. Even with Jacket technology, mankind’s chances for survival are… less than ideal.  William Cage (Tom Cruise), a public affairs officer, is ordered by his superior to cover combat with the Mimics. Knowing how dangerous it will be, Cage refuses, leading to him being arrested and knocked unconscious. Upon waking up, Cage finds that he’s been demoted to private, charged with desertion, and is slated to go into battle. He’s killed in the fight, and suddenly awakens back on the base, before the battle. He soon learns that each death leads to him reawakening, and he sets out to break the cycle and stop the Mimics, with the aid of famed warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), also known as “The Angel of Verdun.”

It’s in the little details that the oddly powerful differences between All You Need is Kill and Edge of Tomorrow arise. In All You Need is Kill, Keiji trains with his commander to learn the ins and outs of Jacket operation. In Edge of Tomorrow, on the other hand, Cage trains with Rita Vrataski. In both stories, there’s tangible romantic tension between Rita and Keiji/Cage. But in Edge of Tomorrow, it’s all more believable. Cage trains alongside her, growing strong beside her. In doing so, he comes to know Rita, though with every death, she meets Cage for the first time. The “romance” angle is secondary to the overarching plot and the crazy action, but it’s worth noting that in Edge of Tomorrow, the bonds built between Cage and Rita are believable.

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That crazy action I mentioned? I wasn’t kidding. When Cage first goes into battle, there are some truly awesome scenes of Jacket soldiers dropping into battle. As Cage descends, the camera whips around, never losing focus on Cage and never dropping a thrilling sense of motion. Suddenly he hits the ground, and dirt, smoke, bullets, and shrapnel are flying every which way. Rita fights using a gargantuan sword, and watching her fight the octopus-like Mimics is beyond cool. She ducks, dips, dives, dodges, and parries every swinging metal tentacle, before finally dealing a lethal blow. Along with the action, Edge of Tomorrow is filled to the seams with explosions. Imagine what would happen if a wealthy pyromaniac decided to buy fireworks in bulk, and you’ll know what to expect here.

While the film’s overall feel is dark and serious, there are moments of goofiness that’ll put a smile on your face. Cage’s postmortem revivals lead to a fair amount of semi-grotesque slapstick humor.  There’s one scene in which Cage tries to get out of doing pushups by rolling away under a moving truck. On his first attempt he’s squished, and the movie cuts from there to a second attempt in which he times it right, and escapes without becoming two-dimensional.

Edge of Tomorrow sports strong acting as well. Tom Cruise comes across as an “everyman” of sorts. Much like anyone else, the repetitions initially perplex and frighten him, until he learns how to utilize them. Emily Blunt, on the other hand, is every flavor of cool. She portrays Rita as a strong and somewhat humorless woman, who approaches killing Mimics in the same manner as an office worker approaches copying documents.

All told, Edge of Tomorrow is a great ride. Action abounds, and its straightforward and serious plot is sprinkled with a tasteful amount of comedy. If you find yourself in need of a movie to watch, check out Edge of Tomorrow. It’s enormously enjoyable and fantastically fun. Unless you have some kind of irrational hatred of action films linked to childhood trauma, Edge of Tomorrow is a movie that can satisfy all kinds of viewers.

Score: 8.5/10

*Images from fandango.com, maglomaniac.com, and businessinsider.com.  Video from Warner Bros. Pictures

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