And you thought Omaha Beach was a bad way to invade France ...
I’m not a great movie reviewer but I know what I like and I have to say that the new Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow worked for me on several levels. It’s hard to say anything about this film without giving the whole thing away. As Richard Brody writes in The New Yorker, “Because the setup is the source of much of the movie’s pleasure, more or less any discussion of the story is a spoiler”. So I’ll content myself with saying a few things about it that I enjoyed.
As an example of military SF, it worked for me. The weapons, aircraft and powered exoskeletons worn by the infantry all seemed convincing because they point in the direction that western militaries seem to be moving in. If you doubt me, check out US defence columnist Tom Ricks’ take on the film here. There were lots of other military details that the film got right, like British Army uniforms. And, as Ricks notes, it was refreshing to see an SF film where the high tech gadgets chew through batteries and ammo fairly quickly.
I liked the acting, and even though I’m not a great fan of Tom Cruise, I liked his character’s story arc from coward to hero. His face in the first combat scene and in the last was a study in contrasts. There was also some great chemistry between him and Emily Blunt, who played an SOF-type hardass with a sword that will make GW Space Marines want to see this film. Ms. Blunt has certainly come a long way since Young Victoria.
While the story depends on time travel (it’s a lot like the film Groundhog Day in that respect), it’s done with a lot of humour and intelligent writing. There were as many laughs as gasps in the audience last night.
While the film hasn’t being doing so well at the box office, the megamall cinema I was in last night was packed with young adults, so that Mdme. Padre were easily among the oldest folks there. It struck me towards the end that a lot of young people, especially gamers, will relate to the film because of its relationship to the video game as an entertainment experience. The Groundhog Day conceit of the film means that for Cruise’s character, each death is kind of like a reversion to a save state, and he can advance again trying to learn from his previous experience, just as a gamer can, until in the final scene of the film, there is no save state to fall back on, and life and death count. Apparently this was the idea that the author of the manga on which the dilm is based, “All You Need Is Kill”, Hiroshi Sakarazaka, was getting at.
“In his afterword to “All You Need is Kill”, Mr. Sakurazaka explains that he as thinking about video games while writing the novel. “I reset the game hundreds of times”, he writes, until my special attack finally went off perfectly”. In other words, video games are a type of time machine that allows players, if they put in the hours, to achieve victory. Hence the movie’s clever tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat”, which, of course, echoes the faith that every film genre fan embraces: live, watch, repeat.
A couple of things got on my nerves slightly. Why would an army take an officer charged with desertion and cowardice and stick him in a highly trained assault unit and equip him with expensive kit on the eve of a decisive operation? Also, why is it that when aliens go up against homo sapiens, they always have a “big brain” bug thingy that controls the whole shooting match, so that all their vulnerability is concentrated into one big, convenient target for the final scene?
Otherwise, EoT is a good film to begin summer with, and one that will reward war gamers with an SF interest. A final reason to see the film is that if you don’t like Tom Cruise, you can watch him get killed … over and over and over again.