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‘Edge of Tomorrow’ refreshingly fun

POSTED: June 5, 2014 1:00 a.m.

“Edge of Tomorrow” is probably the most entertaining mess we’ll see all year. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun watching a movie that makes so little sense.

Although, calling this a movie is a stretch. It is more like a live-action performance of a video game.

The protagonist is presented with an enemy to defeat and must play within specific rules. Each time he dies he revives at the same starting point. He learns more about how to defeat the enemy each time he dies. And the narrative/game repeats dozens of times.

The only thing keeping this from being a game is the viewer has no control over the outcome.

It goes like this. A smarmy, military career opportunist named Cage (Tom Cruise) is sent into a battle to stop the advance of an alien species across Europe. He encounters a soldier named Rita (Emily Blunt) who recently became famous by killing hundreds of aliens in battle.

Cage is killed in his first battle but instantly reawakens back on the day prior to the battle. Each time he dies, he returns to this exact moment, and for the entire first act, we have no idea why. It just seems to be a game. Cage doesn’t even have to insert another token each time.

And like some classic arcade games, the characters around Cage repeat the exact same words and actions every time he experiences this time loop, unless he does something to change the course of events.

These comparisons to a game aren’t meant to be negative. This is a summer blockbuster structured unlike any other. The most succinct description I can offer is “Edge of Tomorrow” is like “Groundhog Day” meets “District 9” meets “Run Lola Run.”

In the context of Hollywood tentpole releases, the movie deserves high praise for offering a completely novel structure.

The cast and crew also deserve kudos for giving the entire film a playful tone and dark sense of humor. For all of its action-movie spectacle, “Edge of Tomorrow” is mostly a comedy, and Cruise gives one of his best comedic performances.

His character begins as a self-promoting coward who attempts to desert the military after he is assigned to the front. This spineless, squirmy character is worlds away from the swaggering hero Cruise usually plays, and he consistently draws laughs without letting the performance devolve into farce.

Ironically, Blunt plays the hard-edged straight man (her character’s nickname is “Full Metal Bitch”) to Cruise’s wise-cracking fool, which is a dynamic I didn’t expect but works very well. Their chemistry and a steady stream of witty gags built around the time loop are entertaining enough to distract us from the film’s many flaws.

The initial setup is only half of the movie’s overabundance of concept. The alien monsters, which the humans have dubbed “mimics,” come in a few sub-species but function as one huge organism. Kill one sub-species and yadda yadda happens. To kill all of them at once, Cage and Rita must yadda yadda yadda. The rules for defeating the mimics and winning this cinematic game are seemingly endless and nonsensical.

Also, the “mimics” don’t mimic anyone or anything, rendering the name meaningless. There is only one possible way the name makes sense, and only three people possess this knowledge. So how exactly did all humans come to call them mimics?

Director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Go”) occasionally overplays the kill-Cage-to-reset-time gag and handles the time transitions clumsily. Some of the details don’t make sense even within the movie’s own rules.

This isn’t the first time Liman has struggled to play with story time in a movie. One or two of you might remember his 2008 flop “Jumper,” which suffered from some of the same problems. And yet, no other recent movie offers the same volume of sheer enjoyment.

Summer movies have turned toward the somber and philosophical recently. “Edge of Tomorrow” resurrects the humorous hedonism that had gone extinct in the American blockbuster. So what if none of it makes sense?

Jeff Marker is head of the Communication, Media & Journalism Department at the University of North Georgia. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.


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