Thursday, July 31, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow - Live. Die. Repeat.

Many of you have probably heard of the movie Groundhog Day, known for its plot involving its central character going through a time loop until circumstances allow him to break the cycle. This type of plot is also present in many other works, so much so that this type of plot is referred to as a Groundhog Day Loop, including a Japanese light novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka called All You Need Is Kill, in which this same plot line is used to depict a soldier going to war against an alien threat. I have not read this light novel, but I have read its manga adaptation in the US Weekly Shonen Jump digital service, adapted by Ryosuke Takeuchi and illustrated by Takeshi Obata (best known as the artist of the Death Note manga by Tsugumi Oba). This adaptation was released during the time leading up to the release of another adaptation of All You Need Is Kill, being the movie Edge of Tomorrow, the subject of this review. While I enjoyed reading the manga version of the story, I had an interest in seeing Edge of Tomorrow to see how close/different it would be from the source material. Having seen this movie recently, I can say that, while it obviously takes some liberties with the plot, I actually enjoyed it for what it was.

The world has been invaded by an alien race called Mimics, with countries doing everything they can to put a stop to them, among the better soldiers fighting the Mimics being Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt). Through TV broadcasts, we are introduced to Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) from the US, who is later called to see General Bringham (Brednan Gleeson) in London about the Mimics. General Bringham soon reveals to Major Cage that he (Cage) is being sent to France in order to fight the Mimics on the front lines. When Major Cage refuses and makes threats to give a bad impression of the General, he is placed under arrest and knocked unconscious. Cage later wakes up at a base at Heathrow Airport, where he is in handcuffs and greeted by Master Sergeant Farrel (Bill Paxton); though Cage tries to get out of it, he is brought and assigned to J Squad, where he becomes acquainted with the soldiers there. The next day, Cage is put in a suit of armor, or Jacket, like his squadmates, though before they can be properly deployed onto a beachhead below them, the carrier they are flying in gets blown up; the members of J Squad make it down intact, though soon there are casualties. As Cage and his squad are facing off Mimics, all while Cage tries to ask how to turn his safety off, they eventually have to fend off a Mimic while taking cover in a pit. Cage manages to turn off his safety in time to survive the Mimic attack, taking out a blue Mimic in the process. However, he is taken out as well and is splattered in the Mimic’s blood. Afterwards, Cage wakes up at the base at Heathrow Airport, where everything plays out as it did the day before, though only he is aware of it.

Being a film adaptation of a book, specifically a Japanese light novel, it should be expected that there are differences between the two versions. However, the changes made to suit the movie work in its favor, giving it a unique feel while still preserving the basic story and terminology (they don’t even shy away from Rita Vrataski’s nickname in-universe, the “Full Metal Bitch”). The movie also takes opportunities to expand on parts of the story to suit the new narrative, though giving examples might create spoilers for those who have yet to see Edge of Tomorrow. The romance angle between the two leads (Cage and Vrataski) is an element preserved from the original All You Need Is Kill story, which the movie handles really well, coming off as feeling like a natural part of the story rather than feeling shoved in for the sake of a romance, helped by the performances of Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt portraying their respective characters near flawlessly. The movie also does a good job of explaining its mythos while keeping itself internally consistent, which is a must for this type of story.

William Cage (Tom Cruise) facing off against an unusual Mimic.

As mentioned, Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt perform their parts well, allowing their parts to feel more natural and thus you are able to feel for their characters. Tom Cruise in particular does well with displaying William Cage’s character arc as he goes from wanting to stay away from the field of battle to figuring out how to work with the hand that he has been dealt over the course of the movie. However, the actors portraying the secondary and minor characters in the movie also pull off good performances, with each character feeling unique given the amount of screen time they have and their personalities come across as believable within the context of the story.

The visual effects are also pulled off really well, with the CGI Mimics blending well into the movie and not feeling out of place with the rest of the action. I also enjoyed seeing the animation of the Mimics themselves, since, while it is of course a different interpretation of their appearance than in the manga adaptation, I thought their designs were interesting and helped set them apart from other depictions of aliens in other movies. Though the Mimics have a general appearance to them, there’s still some visual variety among the different types of Mimics so that they don’t seem monotonous. The designs of the Jackets that the soldiers wear are also interesting, seeing them in action even more so. There’s also some visual variety in the Jackets, even if it’s just an aesthetic difference, and I liked seeing how different parts of the armor work to activate different functions. Visually, this movie does not disappoint.

Edge of Tomorrow is not only a good interpretation of All You Need Is Kill (again, based solely on having read the manga adaptation beforehand), it also works well as a movie on its own. The acting from the main leads is very impressive and believable, the visual effects are pulled off well, and the story makes good use of the Groundhog Day Loop plot. This is a movie I would recommend for those who are familiar with All You Need Is Kill in some way, though I would also say to watch it at least once if you are a fan of action movies (and /or Tom Cruise) since it manages to work well on its own. Having enjoyed it myself, Edge of Tomorrow is a movie that I wouldn’t mind watching again.


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