June 7, 2014

Shadowcon Mini-Views- Edge of Tomorrow

I'll say this to start: this is a damn good movie! Far smarter than it needs to be to be in the company of summer blockbuster popcorn flicks, Edge of Tomorrow delivers a solid sci-fi action piece with more heart than I would have ever expected from this. The trailers made this look to be a typical one-note action ride, and while it certainly is that, it's a little deeper than that as well.

The plot here is that an alien race known as "Mimics" have invaded Earth and are essentially in control of Europe and want to take over the rest of the world. We've been fighting a five-year war with these things with no hope of victory. But recently we've been making a little headway, and are making our final push to see this through, launching a full D-Day-like assault on Normandy to finish these things off with everything we have. It's essentially the Battle of Normandy with aliens. The main character Cage is stripped of his command as Colonel and put in with a bunch of Privates to be sent in with the first wave, but upon landing on the beach, he's attacked by a Mimic Alpha and the blood of the alien gets into Cage's body and he now possesses the unique ability to relive the same day over and over again, changing outcomes and becoming more badass as he does so. Every time he dies, the loop starts over. It's similar to Source Code and Groundhog Day, but this is not all about the time-travel stuff. The plot thickens from here, but what I really liked about this is that the time loop stuff was played both as comedy and then later as a means for us to get to connect with the Cage character better.

During this, Cage meets up with Rita Vretaski, another person like Cage who used to have the Mimic Alpha's blood in her allowing her to relive the same day over and over, but after a fight she lost a large amount of blood and that made her lose the Mimc's blood as well, thus making her lose her time-looping abilities. The two characters play very well off each other; Cage has the power but is inexperienced and untrained, while Vretaski is trained and badass but lacks the time-traveling power. What makes this more interesting is that Vretaski also knows what Cage is going through, and seeing the two plan and work with each other in combat and working around the constraints of time is very nice. I like that from Vrateski's point of view, she's only known Cage for like a few hours, but for Cage, he's known Vrateski for far longer, and this makes their relationship dynamic and interesting because both know the catch of time-looping, of getting attached to people who don't really know you. It's a neat dynamic that I think was explored very well, especially in the last third of the movie.

This movie is very good at balancing the time-travel elements with a story about love and loss, as well as blending all of that with satisfying action. The mech suits are cool to look at and the many times we see the assault on the beach are always a treat. I particularly like in the beginning how all the soldiers are making fun of Cage's suit and then saying that "there's a dead guy in it". This was said for laughs, but then after Cage has gone through the loop of dying several times, seeing Vrateski die and several of his soldier buddies die around him, this line is given more weight and meaning, and I really liked that. The time-travel stuff allows for character introspection and meaning, something that is oft forgotten in normal time-travel/action films. I also like that the climax of the film comes about in such a way to where Cage can't time loop anymore, meaning that the stakes now really do matter; the stakes aren't higher just because the script gods say so, but because Cage can really now die and be dead. The climax was pretty good and there's been some debate about the ending of whether or not it's a paradox (and it kinda is, but in a respectable way).

Overall, Edge of Tomorrow is very good. The time-travel stuff is second to character dynamics and interactions, which is of course why I like this film so much. It puts me into the action, but never leaves me there being bored after five minutes. The pace is good with heart and themes being at the forefront of the film's agenda rather than just being another sci-fi action flick, and Tom Cruise delivers a fine performance. This is a testament to good science fiction: this provides commentary on the human condition while delivering a solid time-travel action story along the way. A very good outing indeed.

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