06 June 2014

FWS Movie Review: EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014)

Edge of Tomorrow marks a rare appearance of Tom Cruise in a science fiction movie. For much of Tom Cruise’s movie career, he has avoided science fiction films, however, that trend seems to be reversing. He did Legend in 1983, but then there was a gap of some 18 years until he did Vanilla Sky that possessed some fantasy/sci-fi elements…besides being batshit crazy of a film. In 2002, he would team up with Steven Spielberg for Minority Report, one of the great sci-fi movies of the new century. After that success, he would return to the genre three more times, in 2005’s War of the Worlds and 2013’s Oblivion and now, with military sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow. The film’s other star is the very beautiful Emily Blunt, who I first saw in The Young Victoria in 2009. This film is based on the 2004 Japanese light novel All You Need Is Kill written by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, and for a time the film carried the same name as the book. Edge of Tomorrow was directed by Doug Liman, who direct Mr and Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity and had a budget of $178 million. I saw this film in Dallas at Cinemark 17 in 3D at the midnight showing. Just before I went to see this film, I re-watched 2011's Battle: Los Angeles, to compare the two, since they had a similar alien invasion setup. I will be noting comparison throughout this review. 


The Basic Plot of Edge of Tomorrow
In the very near future, meteors strike the Earth, and they are carrying more than rocks from outer space. An evolving alien horde is unleashed on Europe, and with just a few years, the majority of continental Europe is under the Mimic alien control. The armed forces of Earth are losing, and losing badly. They are at the door of the United Kingdom, and all looks lost. Earth unites under the United Defense Forces, and the development of the powered exoskeleton armor, called "Jackets", enhance normal human infantry to even the odds against the murderous alien horde with improved strength and a greater weapon packet to be carried. These Jackets also allowed for the shaving down of training time for frontline troopers...more meat for the girder. Some hope for victory is seen with Rita, an British Jacket pilot who killed hundreds of Mimic, and led the UDF to victory at Verdun, France.
This victory, allows for the massive counterstrike to retake Europe to unfold. Just before the battle, American Major Bill Cage is sent to London, HQ of the UDF. Cage is a former advertising man, who packed and sold the image of Rita, "the full metal bitch" to the public, and fueling more enlistment. Now, the overall commander of the UDF wants Cage to given the invasion his PR skills, and shift the blame away from him when the bodybags come home. However, Cage is not a combat officer, and attempts to snake his way out of the beach invasion, and even blackmails the commander. Cage is arrested and put into a frontline combat unit with no training on the Jackets.  

Throughout this film, elements are borrowed and channeled from World War II, and great World War II films, in both style and setup. From the locations, the invasion of France, the paint schemes on the quad-rotor dropships, to the uniforms, Edge of Tomorrow using this setup and runs with it, making for the initial battle scene on the beach something that hasn't been seen in a sci-fi war movie. I give director Doug Liman much praise here, Edge of Tomorrow is visually an impressive sci-fi film with most nice pacing.
This idea of this picture being a "Normandy Invasion science fiction film" is further reinforced in Cage's initial beach invasion experience. There is so much chaos unfolding, and since he has never seen combat, Cage wanders around, observing the hell that is war against these ETs. He is not a hero, in this initial battle, he is just trying to survive. This was originally a point about the film I was concerned about: would Tom Cruise play himself, like he does in so many of his other films, or would he play Major Bill Cage differently? At the opening of the film, Cage has more in common with one of those slimy Fox News reporters than an a badass combat exoskeleton warrior, and Tom plays it well. This allows the audience to understand the power of the time looping and the experience it gives.
 Also, Emily Blunt's Rita character is also played very well. While she is the badass of the film, carrying a custom made battle sword, she also plays Rita with a scarred and jarred point-of-view, making her more than just some futuristic Valkyrie with cool red armor. She walks the knife edge between female badass and shellshocked tired vet. She and Tom work well together, and their experiences together give this film something different and unique that I was not expecting. However, the standout preformed belongs to Bill Paxton. Seriously, he kills it in this film as Master Sgt Farell, and  is a welcomed dose of humor in this bleak film environment. This also extends to the members of J Squad. All great scenes, and the actors play them well.
I was also concerned about the film looping the same day over and over. Once I saw the film, my fears were ungrounded, Doug Liman makes each repeat fresh and takes a different angle on each loop. This also creates an interesting chemistry between Cage and Rite that is one of the best overall elements of this bittersweet film. It is not a love story, and I respected them for NOT making that mistake.  Then there is the combat exoskeleton suits nicknamed "Jackets". While not the same as the book, these really work on-screen, and watching mass legions of warfigthers in exoskeleton powered armor was something I've been waiting for decades to see. Just jawdropping. These Jackets are well-designed, and do not overwhelm the film with the "look how cool this future shit is" factor. Seriously, these Jackets were very well done.Overall, Edge of Tomorrow success in bring the basic concept of the original Japanese novel, with impressive visuals and interesting plot that brings out the best in the actors and crew. Lastly, I am, also, glad that Tom Cruise's character is not named Jack. Seriously, dude, stop making movies with characters named "Jack". Thank you.

It breaks my heart to say this, but the overreaching bad element of Edge of Tomorrow is the Mimic aliens. Normally, I would say that anytime a film attempts an original approach to a hostile alien species that is not H.R. Giger's Xenomorph, is welcomed. But, Edge of Tomorrow fails here. The aliens are CGI, and given their bizarre attack tactics, overall appearance with glowing elements that remains me of the Locust Horde from Gears of War, and lack of clarity on-screen, they seem hollow.  It's not that the Mimics are push-overs, it is that they are so odd, and manic, that they didn't work for me.
This film is really hoping that you connect this picture with great World War II films, like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. While most of this is good, as I said above, in other ways, it is just too much, and it breaks from the aspect that these are aliens and not Hitler's war machine crushing through Europe. Especially when some of the tactical strategies are directly lifted from WWII and the Mimics are branching out from Germany. Subtle, movie, very subtle.  

The very ending of the film, like the last five minutes, is completely unneeded and tacked-on. While I cannot spoil the film, just note that when you think the movie is going to end, it does not, and the overall experience suffers from this. Part of the reason for the film's bittersweet tone is the looping and the finality of the end battle to destroy the time loop is downplayed by this happy ending of sorts. I could see how they could have ended this film more effectively, and allowed the integrity of the rest of film to be retained, and that wasn't the way they shot it.  

How Does the Film Compare to the Novel?

Often when a book is translated into film, things are added and deleted, and Edge of Tomorrow is no expectation. Location is one of the first changes, along the Tom Cruise’s character. In the original text, the events are set in Japan, and a massive military operation is being mounted to protect the Japanese high-tech industry that is critical for the war effort. In the film, it is the United Kingdom, and the UDF are attempting to squeeze the aliens on a two front war. The main character of the book is a Japanese Jacket newbie pilot by the name of Keiji Kiriya, in the film, Tom Cruise’s character is an white American name Major William Cage (I wonder if he is related to Johnny Cage?) who is an advertising man by training, and not a combat officer. 
Much of the life on the base that Keiji experiences are not replicated in the film, along with the characters. The character of Rita is altered from an American Special Forces Jacket operator, to a British Special Forces soldier. Speaking of the powered armor…in the book, the infantry uses powered armor called “Jackets”, and the manga reflects the full armor approach that is very Japanese in design, the film is more exoskeleton, more Elysium and Iron ManThe starting point for the alien Mimic is said in the film is Germany, and at the opening of the film, Earth is planning a counterstrike from the English coast. As a consequence of altering the main character and the setting, the difference between the book and movie increases greatly, making the film and book barely related...hell, even the reason why Cage and Rita are loopers is different along with the conclusion. Oddly, they are better in the film than the book. 

I think that overall story, the tone, the acting, the chaotic battle scenes, and the very cool Jacket APS make Edge of Tomorrow a film worth seeing, especially in 3D, which was done quite well done. I always believe that we fans of military science fiction should see Edge of Tomorrow to let Hollywood know that we moviegoers want more military science fiction films. And maybe, just maybe, this will inspirit Ridley Scott to get off of his ass, and make our Forever War movie! In the end, I still think that Battle: Los Angeles is are more effective military science fiction alien invasion flick than Edge of Tomorrow. I will be adding Edge of Tomorrow to my DVD collection.

Next Time on FWS...
The very name itself conjures all manner of images of hardcore career soldiers in blacked-out ninja kit unleashing death and destruction at night upon the enemies of the state. Deeds of great valor and  hardship follow these warfighters, and they are the tip of the spear of any military organization. While most civilians have some understanding of the nature of the special forces and the people that serve in these elite units, the truth is much more interesting. FWS will finally be talking about special force, in the past, the present, and the future, with all manner of examples from sci-fi.

Here is Jeremy Jahns Review:


  1. This idea of this picture being a "Normandy Invasion science fiction film" is further reinforced by the fact that it came out on the anniversary of D-Day. Eh? See what they did there? Eh?

    But seriously, I do plan on seeing this film and taking any bad with the good. Not only do I think it looks like it'll be a good film, but with rumors I've heard about a remake of Starship Troopers closer to Heinlein's novel, I want to see if this will be a good testbed for whether or not a live action bug vs. powered armor film can be done well.

  2. I am Also looking forward to catching this film. Thanks for the review. I also think I need to snag the book to.

  3. Just watched it today in 3D. It's been out a whole week here in the UK. Only realised it was the D-day anniversary after I walked out of the cinema - pretty cool huh? Not been to the cinema since Revenge of the Sith.

    Stunning main opening battle scene and surprisingly gritty throughout - trailer makers obviously tried to make it look more glossy & mainstream. Though the film Starship Troopers also had a good take on the D-day landings as shown in the film's first battle engagement - Paul Verhoeven originally having experience making a military documentary in his home country.

    Liked the Mimics - prefer the more ambiguous look, like the original nanobot creations from the book. If anything ruined it for me, it was giving them faces. Never really cared much for Battle LA - an advanced alien civilisation would more likely send armies of nanobots than foot soldiers...

    I think everyone agrees that the film could have done with a darker ending (as in the book) leaving the viewer feeling uncomfortable (as throughout most of the film). Let's hope there is a directors cut with an alternative ending (you didn't see what happened to all of the troopers after the crash near the ending for instance - there could be deleted scenes).

    As with books, military sci-fi with full-scale battle scenes are as rare as hen's teeth and so this film should be triumphed as a remarkable achievement with few comparisons.

  4. FWS did a book review of "All You Need is Kill" about a year ago, and it is worth picking up. Surprisingly, the movie does some elements better the novel! I am glad so many FWS readers are making the trek to see Edge of Tomorrow. It is worth your time and cash.
    I also agree that Edge of Tomorrow could be a testbed for the SFX needed for a reboot (and brain wipe) of the original SST 1997 film. I want to see the new SST remake.