When playing a familiar video game, you know what you’re doing. You’re not just some rookie who gets taken out straight away. Shooting the enemy before he even readies his gun, jumping the gap at full pace without second guessing, or laying down just long enough that the spotlight doesn’t see you; the movements are second nature. On the other hand, you’ve seen the cut-scenes a million times and skip them as you already know what they say. So you may be the hardest bastard anyone has ever seen, but it can be very a frustrating experience as you go through certain parts again and again. You know the information, but the characters don’t know you do. Every time is their first time.
Major William Cage’s first encounter with invading alien forces puts him in a very similar situation, with the ability to relive the day leading up to a doomed all or nothing assault. Unfortunately the only way to reset time is to die.
Cage is not a soldier, and goes to great pains to put across that fact when it becomes clear that he is going to be dropped onto the front lines against the alien ‘mimics’, who control most of Europe. World War 2 allegories abound, with the English Channel holding back the enemy forces and the offensive taking place on French beaches, evoking the D-Day landings.
Over time, with the help of war hero Rita Vrataski, Cage becomes more and more proficient. Can he use his new ability to turn the tide of war? What effect will seeing the same people die repeatedly have on him?
Cruise infuses his character with perfect amounts of sliminess and self preservation without making him unlikeable. His transformation into a battle hardened soldier is believable as he shows the weariness of going through the motions again and again. Director Liman doesn’t make this process tiresome, moving through similar scenes whilst trusting the audience to put it all together. Cage’s changing approach to the day and many failed attempts endear you to him. The realisation that maybe he can’t save everyone, and grimly walking past those he knows will die, takes its toll yet is tested as he resets the day more and more, continually building his half of a relationship with Vrataski.
Emily Blunt’s sword wielding warrior is lean and mean, not something I would have thought she could pull off when I first saw her in A Devil Wears Prada. An impressive transformation and a credit to her ability.
Cruise and Blunt make for a very effective team, but it is Bill Paxton as Master Sergeant Farrell Bartolome who really made an impression on me. It cannot be a coincidence that he shares the same rank as Al Apone, his marine commander in Aliens. Paxton appears to be having a whale of time channelling Apone in his performance, and I loved every scene he was in.
The mimics themselves are an interesting looking enemy, yet we aren’t given too much information on them. A wise choice by the writers and director, as the story is about Cage and Vrataski and how their experiences change them.
To battle these creatures soldiers are equipped with powered exoskeletons. These ‘jackets’ give the soldiers enhanced strength whilst packing some serious firepower. I’ll admit I thought they looked rather clunky at first, but after seeing them in action, controlled by characters who know how to get the most out of them, they are an impressive bit of kit.
With Cage effectively repeating the same level again and again, Vtaraski’s Final Fantasy-esue weaponry, and plenty of running and gunning you could be forgiven for thinking this is just a live action video game. Maybe it would have made a good one too. But Cruise and Blunt, along with Liman’s steady hand behind the camera, elevate it above just being a cool idea. A vein of morbid humour runs through the story to match the emotion, rounding out the film well and elevating it above plenty of summer blockbuster fare.
The only thing I don’t like is the title. The original story the film is based on is titled ‘All You Need is Kill’. Now I understand why they didn’t go with that as its hardly a family friendly title, but it would have been a far better fit.
Based on this and Oblivion it would seem Cruise is interested in taking strong sci-fi ideas and making them accessible without losing emotion or dumbing them down. With Edge of Tomorrow he thoroughly succeeds, leaving me excited about experiencing this same day again.