Save Point

I'm to the part of the calendar year that I should be seeing a lot more movies. It's prestige season! For some reason, though, TV and books have taken over the larger part of my cultural consumption lately. I don't yet know if that's just a hiccup or a trend or a seismic shift in my tastes. For now, it means I'm lagging behind in the films people are seeing and talking about. The only one I've seen recently that would still fall into the 2014 conversation is a little-known action flick called Edge of Tomorrow.

I'm kidding, sort of. How could a Tom Cruise movie with aliens and explosions be little-known? There were plenty of trailers and ads for it; it was as fully-marketed as any other movie of its stripe. But something strange happened. Whether it was because the filmmakers still can't seem to settle on a title (it's also known as All You Need is Kill and Live. Die. Repeat.) or because Tom Cruise gives a performance that is outside of the norm, I'm not sure. But oddly, this movie that should have been a blockbuster landed with a bit of a thud. And I never thought I'd say this about a Tom Cruise action movie, but you know what? It deserved a better reception.

Edge of Tomorrow is about Cage (Cruise), a military officer in charge of selling a war to the public. A war against invading aliens that humans are increasingly losing. He finds himself unwillingly pressed into service as an actual soldier, and though he manages to take out one noteworthy foe, he dies five minutes into his first battle. But it turns out there was something special about the alien blood he got soaked in. Every time he dies, he wakes up the day before that battle. The day resets, and the advance knowledge he has about the events that will take place is his only advantage. It's a very video-gamey premise, and I mean that as a compliment.

Eventually, he meets up with Rita (Emily Blunt), a war hero and symbol of humanity's resilience. She's basically Elizabeth, is what I'm saying. She understands what Cage is going through, and as the more skillful and experienced person, trains him to be a serviceable fighter so that they can actually have a fighting chance against a seemingly invincible foe.

Despite its action-movie trappings, this movie manages to break quite a few molds. Cruise plays a smarmy, weak-willed coward - a far cry from the usual noble, All American Hero he usually portrays. Rita is a total badass, and never wilts into a shy violet now that a man has come around to take care of all her problems, nor is she relegated to a background presence that only exists to motivate the main character. There are moments of pure comedy studded into intense battle sequences.

This movie struck me as something I'd call a mature blockbuster: Sure there are fights and aliens and stuff blowing up real good, but there's actual thought put into the writing and characterization as well. This type of movie is rare, and I wish it would have been rewarded for its intelligence. Instead, another Michael Bay crapfast soars to the top of the box office, while films like this that actually succeed at bending the conventions of action are mostly ignored. Hey, maybe that's why I've been avoiding the theaters lately!

Edge of Tomorrow: B+


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