Genre: Science Fiction, Action and Adventure
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt
Release Date: June 6th, 2014
“Battle is the great redeemer.” So states Master Sergeant General Farrell (Bill Paxton) in the new sci-fi drama Edge of Tomorrow. The character only states the line once during a day but it’s repeated time and again in this Groundhog Day– type feature where one man has to repeat the same day over and over again until one of two specific things happen. I won’t spoil what those two events are but I will spoil the fact that this— unlike so many other action-packed movies— attempts to be more than the sum of its parts.
At first, diagnosis it would seem that Tom Cruise is the obvious choice to play Cage, an officer who appears on cable television as a strong supporter of the military. Cruise, of course, is the actor who rocked as the covert agent Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible and who fought against an alien invasion in War of the Worlds (2005). He’s also the same actor who shot down his enemies in the military-focused Top Gun (1986).
As each of these characters, he was often willing to do anything for his country.
The Edge of Tomorrow is different though, which makes it stand out. Cruise doesn’t play a patriotic leader here. He’s a talking head. As the drama begins, he even states that he “can’t stand the sight of blood, not so much a paper cut.” He’s willing to rally the troops but becoming one of them feels like a bridge too far.
He’s eventually forced into battle against alien invaders by his commanding officer but a typical battle scene— well-filmed but underwhelming— becomes something more when Cage dies during combat and then comes back to life once again a day earlier. Like Groundhog Day, Cage is forced to repeat the same day over and over again and while he remembers the previous versions of the 24-hour period, no one else does. He eventually teams up with Rita (Emily Blunt), a patriotic icon known for defeating the enemy in a previous battle, who wants to use Cage’s gift to win the war.
After adjusting to the concept—which becomes evident after about fifteen minutes— the screenplay slowly offers up a few nice twists and turns. Sure, the feature borrows from other films where people can see some glimpse of the future (i.e. Looper and Final Destination, in addition to the obvious Groundhog Day) but it never settles into letting the viewer know exactly where it’s going.
The concept seems rife for a great film but many of the battle sequences leave much to be desired. Of course, it’s neat to see Cage battle the aliens but those scenes– and there are quite a few of them here- often feel like a first-person shooter video game without much depth attached to them. The aliens don’t look that exciting and watching someone else play a video game gets tiring after a while.
Groundhog Day was a great film but Battle: Los Angeles was a lousy one and this feels like a combination of both.
The concept alone works wonders for the feature and some of director Doug Liman’s visual choices work perfectly (the beginning of the first battle scene is great, for one) but when the story spends too much time showing guns blazing between the aliens and the two main characters, it sacrifices the deeper characters that would’ve made this feature extraordinary.
Edge of Tomorrow may have a few great moments and solid acting but it could’ve been much much more.
Review by: John Hanlon