Thursday, July 24, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow

2014, Doug Liman (Bourne Identity) -- cinema

You know the movie is about aliens, you know it is about a time loop and you know he defeats the Bad Guy, but everything else in this review is spoilerish. You have been warned.

As the movie opened, I saw Tom Cruise in a military uniform and something didn't feel right to me. There sat Major William Cage, all Tom Cruise 50ish leathery, smug and self satisfied. Where was the raw recruit of the light novel All You Need Is Kill ?  Where was the green kid about to step into an alien war he barely seemed to understand?  But then it struck me; its that 50ish leathery look that we cannot escape. Tom Cruise cannot be seen as the green recruit, his age and look surpass that, his status in Hollywood precludes that. So, in all Hollywood-isms, we have to establish him as one expected thing, so we can then direct him towards something else, a proper transformation. In this case, I really like it. It works. Besides, who doesn't like seeing Tom Cruise knocked down a few notches.

The world is invaded by aliens called mimics. In the original novel I believe they came from within the earth, unknown of before the invasion, but in the movie they crash from the heavens on a comet. I think we should keep an eye on those holes opening up in Siberia, just in case. They mimic our behaviour, always changing tactics when we change ours, always predicting what we will do in battle, always winning. Thus, at the beginning of the movie the entire central European continent and most of Asia is lost. But then, surprisingly, we win a battle at Verdun with raw recruit Rita Vrataski (the full metal bitch) logging hundreds of kills. A celebrity hero is made, a new offense is planned, with everything the United Defense Force has being tossed against the mimics.

Major Cage, a media talking head who reports on the war and raises morale, is being sent on the first wave, to film and report. This scares him to no end so he seeks to blackmail General Brigham. It backfires and Cage finds himself stripped of rank, identity and any chance to escape the battle. He is inserted into a squad of screwups with a smart talking Sergeant, brilliantly played by Bill Paxton. He has no battle training, not even enough to run the ExoSuits (exo skeleton battle armor that has weapons, strength and stamina behind it) and he is expected to die in the first battle. And he does.

But he doesn't die easily. He actually takes out a few mimics, as he flails about confused and terrified, after finally releasing the safety on his weapon. And he also manages to take down a bigger, bluer mimic, which we learn later is an Alpa.  He is bathed in its blood, which melts through him and he dies, horribly. Instantly, he wakes up, back at the camp, being introduced to Sergeant Farrell. The day has started over. Thus the time loop story begins.

But the movie is not only about the time loop. Oh, that plays a dominant part in the plot, but its not all. And what they do with it is clever. There are scenes of an infinite amount of training, the endless walkthroughs of the landings at French beaches and even a few humorous deaths as he tries to get things right. But the plot is always trying to move forward, just a few hours more, just a few steps more, until his next death. He has a goal, an Omega alien brain that has the secret to the mimic time control, which explains their ability to always be one step ahead of their enemy and why he is mixed up in it. His goal is to kill this creature and end the war, or at least inhibit the enemy's greatest advantage. And just when you think the movie is reaching a conclusion, fake out !!  The Omega was fucking with him, hoping to bleed him out of all his time jumping blood. Cage deals with that but they are back to the digital, 3D imaging drawing board.

My favourite scenes are him interacting with Rita. Rita went through this before, thus her hundreds of rookie kills on the beaches of Verdun. She knows how minimal an impact physical death has on him, and she really doesn't care about the psychological impact. Imagine being shot in the forehead countless times. That has got to leave an impression on your psyche. But they go beyond training, show how a relationship develops between the two. No, not the requisite love scene, though it is alluded to. Its more about how two people are spending every day with each other, minute in and minute out, for years. Well, at least one is. He is. She is experiencing him new every single day but cannot mistake the look in his eye. She knows how he is feeling, as she did with someone else. Its heartbreaking, and mind bending.

I was expecting to be disappointed with the battle suits, called jackets originally. As the origins are Japanese, visualize mecha armor. Wearable mechs. Think Starship Troopers, the novel not the movie. Hollywood needs us to see their faces though. So, Cage and Vrataski doff their helmets and the battle suit here is only skeletal. But Liman does such a good job with it. When we see the beach landing, everything looks clunky and clumsy. But when we see Cage & Vrataski, after years of training and use, they are graceful, powerful and impressive. Everyone else is just a child in toy armor, meant to die.

The final act of the movie is the final act of heroism. Cage has lost the blood, lost the time loop but gained intel as to the creatures hideout. So he grabs his bunch of screw ups, grabs Rita and heads off to precede the doomed invasion and stop everything even before it starts. Of course, we know he succeeds -- its Hollywood, and even that is familiar, patent but satisfying. I rather like the ending, the "happy ending", that cleans things up but is acceptable inside the paradigm of time controlling blood. But I am still eager to see the talked about "alternate ending".