Edge of Tomorrow
Score: 10 out of 10
2014 is the year audiences have been spoiled by a string of big action movies that are much better and smarter than they have any business being. We’ve had Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Godzilla, and X-Men: Days of Future Past, but the new sci-fi action film Edge of Tomorrow is better than all of them. This is an excellent summer action movie, and does everything it needs to do flawlessly. Simply put, it’s as good as they come.
Edge of Tomorrow takes place in the not too distant future, when a race of deadly aliens have invaded our planet. These vile creatures start in Berlin and quickly take Paris, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and threaten to move onto England before the good guys manage to hold them back by staging a counteroffensive in Verdun and then Normandy. Get it? I think the filmmakers modeled the invasion patterns of their aliens after the German army of the 20th century in a bid to make them unconsciously terrifying. Whatever the reason, the story begins with Tom Cruise as a swaggering soldier at the army’s PR department who has never seen a day of battle in his life. When he’s forced to fight like everyone else, he’s completely in over his head, until he accidentally picks up a special alien power that allows him to restart the day everytime he dies. He’s stuck inside a time loop, and the only way to get out is to destroy the aliens once and for all.
The unusual premise gives the filmmakers plenty of opportunity to unload the comedy along with the action, and Cruise’s character goes through a nice emotional arc despite the fact that the people around him never change. And no, this is not a ripoff of Groundhog Day. The basic time loop concept is one of the oldest in the book. It’s been around for at least as long as humans have had the occasional desire to relive certain moments and days over again, and it’s been explored in countless books, movies, TV shows, video games, and any other medium you can name. The time loop and its setup are complicated, but the writers make everything as simple to understand as possible without dumbing it down, so what could have been a complete clusterfuck turns out to be something very easy to digest. I wasn’t surprised to find out that this was co-written by Christopher McQuarrie, one of the best screenwriters in Hollywood.
Director Doug Liman, best known for helming the first Bourne movie, unloads plenty of slick visuals that set a new standard for how big budget movies should balance their CGI and practical effects. A big chunk of this was filmed using practical locations and effects. They even went so far as to close down significant portions of London’s very busy Trafalgar Square, which I can personally attest to because I happened to be walking by while they were filming a scene. Liman practically invented the shaky-cam style while making Bourne, but Edge of Tomorrow goes for a more old fashioned style where the camera pulls back a bit and you can actually see what’s going on without wanting to puke. It was shot in 2D and then converted to 3D, but this is thankfully one of the rare exceptions when that actually looks good.
Edge of Tomorrow is the best movie of 2014, and the cynical critic inside me is a little annoyed that he can’t think of anything to complain about. Unlike the good but not perfect Godzilla or X-Men, this movie has no obvious flaws, so you have no excuse not to see it. You need to enjoy the good movies when you can, because they don’t come very often.
-Review written by Blake Siefken, follow me on Twitter!