To me, the gold standard for twenty-first century sci-fi films was established when I saw “District 9.” Man versus alien, wrapped within a government conspiracy plot and a love story. It worked ever so well, evidenced by a nomination for Best Picture.
“Edge of Tomorrow,” which arrives on Blu-ray disc from Warner Bros. on September 30, doesn’t pull too many punches, either. It’s dynamic, engaging and funny in a way that fuels the storyline rather than steal its thunder. Strong lead performances take center stage from the very beginning, and we are ushered into a tragically annoying experience that has a surprisingly plausible explanation, but a darn near impossible solution. “Edge of Tomorrow” works its magic at a near frantic pace, but manages to establish characters and build something credible rather than allowing the action to be the only memorable element.
Casual internet research helped me to discover that “Edge of Tomorrow,” directed by Doug Liman, is based on an adapted screenplay from Japanese author Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Apparently it took nine different companies nearly four years to get the special effects just right, and if you judge results by dollars earned, “Edge of Tomorrow” did a-okay after earning $369 million worldwide. It appeals to Tom Cruise fans, Emily Blunt fans, action fans, sci-fi fans and more. Plus, the whole thing just looks really, really cool.
Don’t believe me, eh? Fine. Go get yourself a battle suit and try to use it during your humanity’s last ditch efforts to defend all that you know from a race of pretty pissed off aliens who are out for your blood, only to find out you are not just going to crash and burn miserably, but that you’re going to keep doing it over and over and over again. #timewarp
After aliens, called Mimics, take over Europe, their military leader General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) demands that American Major William Cage (Cruise) head up the media coverage of all military actions taken against the Mimics during an assault in France. Cage has little to no combat experience or interest, and protests. Brigham has him arrested, and when Cage awakes, he is in the middle of an infantry unit preparing to jump into the middle of the invasion.
After Cage lands on the beach and experiences war’s horror first hand, he is killed by the aliens, only to wake up again in the same place he awoke after his arrest. He goes through the entire endeavor again, with the same result. And again. Nobody believes him despite his knowledge of what’s coming down the pipe, until he meets Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Blunt), who seems to identify with his special abilities. After connecting with Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), we learn that Cage has picked up the ability to reset time just like the aliens. “Edge of Tomorrow” follows the two lead characters as they explore each other’s knowledge, skills and abilities toward defeating the aliens and corruption behind their dire scenario.
The plot twists and turns in some different directions, and I will credit the filmmakers for generating substantial buzz within their 113 minute run time. I didn’t have too many moments where I wasn’t at least very interested in seeing where the next scenario might go and whether or not the time warp would win or the humans would prevail. Blunt’s character has a substantial chip on her shoulder, and it shows in a way that adds body to her performance rather than just be annoying. Combine this with another solid effort from Cruise (you have to wonder if/when he’ll slow down post “Mission Impossible” and “Jack Reacher”), and you’re bound to find a happy film going experience.
The film doesn’t shy away from being more than just a violent sci-fi flick. Not to worry if that’s your fancy: there is plenty to go around, of course. But it’s funny, too, especially when Cage goes into his unit over and over and over again, eventually calling out every dirty little secret he knows about what his new peers will say, do and not want publicized. It’s empowering when a resolution is reached, but I’ll let you decide whether or not that resolution was the best way to end “Edge of Tomorrow.” It’s also a complicated film in regards to power dynamics and gender roles, both of which rear their ugly heads frequently.
Blunt and Cruise clash at first, mainly because they understand what the other is going through and dealing with but are powerless to fix it. They both don’t back down, and watching the male/female push back is an interesting way to consider how modern military capacity has changed substantially but still has a long way to go. Neither character comes out and says it, but they’re both thinking about the other in a context of violence and war through gender. Historically, of course, men have been in battle and women have been in the nursing stations or helping feed soldiers post combat. Blunt’s role here is front and center, and, to top it off, she’s great at it. Cruise’s challenge is to embrace her as a peer and ally first, and a woman second. Seeing it unfold it pretty interesting, and “Edge of Tomorrow” does this dynamically enough that you get to experience it without the obviousness that such coming of age elements are so frequently projected.
The film is enjoyable and has many layers to it, on top of just having strong leads and powerful visual effects. I appreciated this all the way through, and am encouraged that such aggressive, yet focused, efforts are still able to be honed in this otherwise modern era that worries more about attention spans than it does about quality.
Calling “Edge of Tomorrow” stunning might be a little much, but it is as good a looking transfer as I’ve seen in some time. The brightness in the darker scenes is pretty crisp, with soft tones around facial expressions and transition scenes. There is little grain visible at all, and the zoomed in shots of Cruise’s face as he wakes up from his time warp nightmares over and over again are vivid enough that you can count the pores on his cheeks. The 1080p High Definition video transfer’s 2.40:1 helps provide additional depth to the story.
I thoroughly enjoyed the “Edge of Tomorrow” audio track, which really steals the show throughout. It’s a DTS-High Definition Master Audio 7.1 option that pulses with energy and raw emotion all the way through. The depth and breadth here is massive, especially within the combat sequences. Natural background noise is pure and vivid all the way through as well. It’s as good a transfer as I’ve seen from a Warner Bros. action film in some time. Other audio options include Dolby Digital French and Spanish 5.1s, with English, Spanish and French subtitles.
Lots of extras here, including a digital copy, standard definition DVD, several featurettes that examine the composition of the film’s epic sci-fi battles, as well as some cool insight on director Doug Liman’s filmmaking efforts.
A Final Word:
“Edge of Tomorrow” is more than worth a look, and it has enough happening in it that it should appeal to a broad audience and retain replay value. It far exceeded my expectation, and while it isn’t on the same level as “District 9,” it carries its weight and makes it look easy.