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‘Edge of Tomorrow’ exciting, but dark humor unsettling

6/5/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Tom Cruise stars in “Edge of Tomorrow.”
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
For many people, a list of their favorite movies would include “Groundhog Day,” the Harold Ramis romantic comedy where Bill Murray plays a weatherman who continues to relive the same day. The new sci-fi film “Edge of Tomorrow” uses the same plot device and, who knows, it might also become some people’s favorite movie.

But it won’t be on my list.

It’s not that “Edge,” directed by Doug Liman and based on the 2004 book “All You Need Is Kill,” is a bad movie. It’s exciting and visually dazzling, and even with a so-so ending gives you your money’s worth. But there’s an aspect of the movie that left me cold, even if it coaxed laughs at the screening I attended.

“Edge” begins with Earth under attack by alien creatures called “mimics.” (Imagine if the Tasmanian Devil mated with the alien from “Aliens.”) They’re lightning quick and relentless, and they’re knocking the stuffing out of the humans. Mankind’s only ray of hope is the knowledge that the mimics can be stopped, as they were defeated in a battle led by tough-as-nails soldier Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt.).

If Vrataski represents courage in the face of long odds, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) represents the opposite. He’s a smarmy coward who heads the military’s public relations campaign, and his attitude ticks off the war’s commanding general (Brendan Gleeson). It is not a smart move, and Cage soon finds himself on the front lines of the human’s D-Day assault on the aliens, being barked at by a no-nonsense drill sergeant (Bill Paxton).

This is when the movie goes into Groundhog Day mode. The battle is a disaster and Cage dies — not for the last time. Death for him is just a “reset” button, and every time he dies, he wakes up back on the army base before his horrible day had begun. One difference between “Edge” and “Groundhog Day” is that we eventually get an explanation as to why this is happening, and while it’s not one I completely followed, at least it is a reason.

Another difference between the two movies is that Cage’s day repeatedly ends with him dying violently. He usually dies either at the hands of a mimic or at the hands of Vrataski, who sees Cage as the key to defeating the aliens. But Cage is only useful to Vrataski if he’s in sound working order. If Cage injures his leg or suffers some other mishap, she offs him in the most cold-blooded way, with the casualness of someone hard-booting a frozen laptop. These deaths are played for laughs — dark, dark laughs — which I found unsettling. (And I spent my childhood watching Daffy Duck getting shot point blank by Elmer).

From “Groundhog Day” we know basically how Cage’s development will progress, but it’s still fun to watch Cruise and Blunt acting like video gamers zipping through previously explored areas to get to new levels. If Cruise is going to reshape classic films into movies where he can be an action hero, “Edge of Tomorrow” is not a bad starting point. When he gets to fighting zombies in an “It’s a Wonderful Life” reboot, though, I may skip it.

The movie, which opens June 6, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language and brief suggestive material.

  (out of four)


Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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