The summer of 2014 has already seen few behemoths in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past & DreamWorks Animation’s How To Train Your Dragon 2 but nobody really expected this Tom Cruise starrer to make as big an impression as it has on the critics meter, at least. Helmed by the director of The Bourne Identity & starring one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars, Edge of Tomorrow made its debut on the silver screen few weeks ago without any significant buzz & yet in an unexpected way it has turned out to be the biggest cinematic surprise of the year so far, thanks to its terrific execution of smart storytelling with fierce action & its escalating ‘word of mouth’ praise. And unless the upcoming sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes somehow manages to exceed its surmounting hype, this film is sure to end up as my pick for “The Definitive Summer Blockbuster of 2014” title.
Set in the near future where our planet has been hit by an alien race known as Mimics who are immune to any military attack & have almost taken over the entire continent of Europe, Edge of Tomorrow concerns Major William Cage, a member of the NATO-led United Defence Force (UDF), who is summoned to London to meet with General Brigham but ultimately finds himself unceremoniously demoted from his rank & thrown into the battlefield. With no experience whatsoever in combat training, Cage is killed within minutes but finds himself inexplicably trapped in a time loop where he ends up experiencing the same brutal battle over n over again. Yet with each death, his skills to handle the adversaries of war only get better as he tags along with a famous veteran who offers an explanation to his current predicament. And with each repeated encounter, they move one step closer to defeating the invincible enemy.
Directed by Doug Liman, whose breakthrough feature came more than a decade ago when he helmed the director’s chair for the 1st chapter of The Bourne Trilogy, Edge of Tomorrow is unquestionably his best work since The Bourne Identity and presents him making excellent use of the available resources to craft a motion picture that’s as smart & engaging as it is entertaining. The screenplay is based on the Japanese novel, All You Need Is Kill, and combines the elements of Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan & James Cameron’s Aliens into one original storyline which is then further refined with clever use of action, wit, drama & unpredictability to come out as an immensely stable, intensely gripping & highly rewarding cinematic ride that’s completely worth the price of your ticket. Plus, its vehemently executed technical aspects play a key role in taking the film to the next level.
Starting with the production design, the exoskeleton suit armour is ingeniously devised from the ground-up & carries a gritty yet aesthetic feel to it. Cinematography expertly exhibits Liman’s impulsive shooting style trademarks by making prevalent use of frequently cut handheld shots & despite the camera being always in motion, it manages to capture each & every moment in exhaustive detail. Editing is a standout here since not for once does the film’s repetitive segments feel dull or even minutely tiresome & the entire picture is ferociously paced from start to finish. While the CGI design & rendering of the aliens is no doubt worthy of praise, the VFX department never really takes away the focus from the film’s narrative but only amplifies the visceral experience to a greater extent for its viewers. And last but not the least, Christophe Beck’s score infuses additional intensity, energy & excitement to the whole package, thus making this cinematic journey even more enriching & satisfying on an emotional scale.
Coming to the performances, Edge of Tomorrow features a dependable cast in Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Brendan Gleeson & Bill Paxton. Tom Cruise may not be counted amongst the best actors working in the industry today but there’s no denying that he’s very passionate about the characters he chooses to play & always gives his 100% effort, no matter what the outcome turns out to be. Finally getting to play what’s his most challenging, funniest & meatiest role in a long time in the form of William Cage, Cruise wonderfully embraces his character by properly weighing his emotions, wit & charisma to deliver a performance that’s fabulous in every way. Emily Blunt is ruthlessly aggressive as Sgt. Rita Vrataski; a decorated war veteran who guides & trains Cage as she’s aware of what he’s going through. And Blunt truly delivers a kick-ass performance that lives up to her character’s more prominent name, “Full Metal Bitch”. The rest of the supporting cast doesn’t have much to offer but both Gleeson & Paxton chip in with fine contributions as General Brigham & Sgt. Farell, respectively.
I had a blast watching this endlessly entertaining extravaganza yet there are few minor issues I would like to talk about. First, the ending. Even though it offers an overall satisfying conclusion to its story, the climactic moments just don’t feel fulfilling enough in accordance with the build-up that leads to it. And second is the unnecessary inclusion of a romance arc, also present during the climax, which seriously adds nothing to the story but fortunately doesn’t take away much from it as well. Still, the positives outweighs the negatives by a huge margin as Edge of Tomorrow manages to get most elements right & is the perfect summer blockbuster that seamlessly blends all its ingredients to provide quality entertainment to all its viewers. The story is smartly scripted, plot is cleverly executed, direction is absolutely brilliant, action choreography is breathtaking, production design is awe-inspiring, camerawork is energetic, editing is cut-throat, visuals are dazzling, performances are captivating, humour is perfectly timed, and the chemistry between Cruise & Blunt is unequivocally refreshing. In all seriousness, Edge of Tomorrow may look like a 2-hour long action-laden video game but damn me if it’s not a remarkably well-played one by its cast & crew. Just go for it.