Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but he knows how to make entertaining films. Yeah, yeah. There are some Knight & Day and Rock Of Ages anomalies in there. However, you would be hard pressed to go through his filmography and find a film of his that you didn’t at least think was fun. From the grossly underrated Oblivion, to the pulpy Jack Reacher, to the exhilarating Ghost Protocol. Tom Cruise STILL can make films that are exciting and fun. Edge Of Tomorrow is no different. It is a THROWBACK to some of the balls to the wall sci-fi action films I grew up watching as a kid. Aliens, Total Recall, Terminator, etc. It takes a sci-fi concept and blends it with great action set pieces and smart dialogue, hello Christopher McQuarrie, to create a film that gets you munching popcorn in the theater like a rabid woodchuck.
Edge of Tomorrow, based on the way better titled book All You Need Is Kill, tells the story of a cowardly soldier forced onto the front lines of a war against an alien invasion. Through a miraculous set of circumstances, he gains the power to reset the day every time he gets killed. With every reset, the soldier learns the skill and the courage he will need to defeat the aliens and save humanity. And yes, I’ll be the one millionth person to use the analogy…IT’S GROUNDHOG’S DAY WITH ALIENS AND MACHINE GUNS! Although, I see Edge Of Tomorrow as a little less complex than that. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character becomes a better person on the inside through use of the recycling days. Edge Of Tomorrow uses it’s time traveling concept mainly for the goal of defeating the enemy. Some personal growth is there, but most of it takes a back seat to the mission at hand. You might think that I’m saying that this is a bad thing, but I honestly think it works here. The movie never slows down and the repeated timeline gimmick never becomes tedious or, ironically, predictable.
Tom Cruise’s performance in this is…well…very Tom Cruise. He doesn’t break ground on any particularly new territory here. But this is a film where he doesn’t really have to be anything other than Tom Cruise. The biggest range of acting we get from Cruise is seeing him actually portray a coward. Despite his long history as a leading man, this is something we rarely get to see him play and he does it quite well.
The biggest weak spot for me in Tom Cruise’s other recent sci-fi film Oblivion was that the connection he has with actress Olga Kurylenko didn’t feel that strong to me. Their chemistry just wasn’t right. On the other hand, Emily Blunt is literally chemistry personified. By that I mean she seems to just have amazing chemistry with every leading man they put her up against. Whether it’s the chemistry she has with Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper, or the insane amount of chemistry she has with Matt Damon in The Adjustment Bureau. Seriously, watch that film again. The bathroom scene between her and Damon is a textbook example of what onscreen chemistry looks like. Blunts powers once again come into play because every scene with her and Cruise is great. Surprisingly, some of the scenes where they are just talking are as entertaining as the scenes where they are blowing things away. Maybe it would have been better if Blunt was in Oblivion and Olga was in Edge, seeing as Oblivion is more dependent on the chemistry between the two leads than Edge Of Tomorrow is. But I digress.
The rest of the supporting cast fill in their roles well. Bill Paxton is just as humerus as he needs to be, and the members of Cruise’s J Squad are memorable and entertaining enough in their limited screen time to stick with you. I was so hoping for Paxton to appear later in the film during an airdrop into alien territory so as to assuage my Aliens similarities fetish, but alas.
For as competent of an action director Doug Liman is, he really flies under the radar. This is likely due to him focusing more on producing than directing as of late. However, this is still the man who brought Jason Bourne to the silver screen. Hell, his romantic action comedy Mr. and Mrs. Smith is the reason that there is such a thing as Brangelina. Liman can do action, and he does it well here. There is nothing as eye jarringly exhausting as Neill Blomkamp’s other exosuit extravaganza Elysium. Just solid set pieces with thrilling, coherent action beats. This saddens me because Edge Of Tomorrow will probably be the last action film I’ll see before Michael Bay’s new Transformers movie maces my eyeballs.
Edge Of Tomorrow fully embraces the summer popcorn flick philosophy while still delivering enough smart dialogue and concepts to keep you guessing. It isn’t interested with hitting you over the head with social commentary or a heavy handed message. It just wants to entertain you over and over again. Grab an extra mag…an extra battery…don’t get injured anywhere near Emily Blunt…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.
All my cards on the table. Christopher McQuarrie is my favorite writer in the business. He is responsible for creating Keyser Soze and all the other Usual Suspects. He is responsible for writing and directing my favorite film of all time, The Way Of The Gun. He is responsible for uncredited rewrites of films that range from the first two X-Men films to The Aviator. He wrote the new Wolverine film for James Mangold and Hugh Jackman, assisted on Jack The Giant Killer for Bryan Singer, probably gonna do Mission: Impossible 5 for Tom Cruise, and all of this for good reason. McQuarrie’s dialogue, his storytelling technique, his characters all just sing to me. He makes modern atypical stories feel GRITTY, pulpy and classic. So, I was very excited when I heard he was adapting Lee Childs’s best selling novel One Shot. A story about an Ex Military Investigator trying to solve a brutal mass murder. After watching, I felt completely satisfied. However, my biases are clearly noted and I knew what I was getting into. I can see where someone not on the McQuarrie bandwagon and unaware of the actual plot of the film going in could complain. However, love or hate Jack Reacher, its GRITTINESS is without question.
Advertising can make or break a film. Done right and you can break opening day records with a film that has Sam Jackson yelling at snakes while on a commercial flight. Done wrong and you can alienate and mislead your audience with unfulfilled expectations of what they think your film will be. I personally think the advertising for this film was done wrong. Watching the trailer for Jack Reacher makes you think that it is a balls to the wall action film. It isn’t. Jack Reacher is a mystery thriller with some very GRITTY action scenes seasoned in. A crappier version of this concept was attempted a few months back with the abismal Alex Cross. A who-done-it missing the who part and boring us with the done it. The slightly false advertising is a tough thing to criticize because how do you exactly promote subtlety? How do you draw in audiences with the promise of fleshed out characters and a gripping story as opposed to fantastic visuals and explosions? It is kind of the conundrum of the film industry in how to properly bring attention to films like Drive or The American or Jack Reacher. Needless to say, Jack Reacher has a pretty tight mystery, a believably creepy adversary, a quick pace, and an awesome hero.
The character of Jack Reacher is built up in such a way throughout this film, he begins to supersede even the story itself. You just want to see what he’ll do next. He’s clever, he’s uncompromising, he’s cold. He is a ‘shortest distance between two points’ type of guy like Bourne but comfortable in his own skin like Bond. The purists of the books point to the casting of Tom Cruise as a huge problem they have with the film before even seeing it. In the novels, Reacher is supposed to be this hulkingly huge, intimidating guy. In other words, the opposite physical build of a Tom Cruise. As a guy who witnessed Michael Bay torch my nostalgic preconceptions in Transformers, I understand a One Shot fan’s hesitance at Cruise. However, if you’re worried if Cruise delivers the intimidation, rest easy. Cruise can play a scary badass. Or have you not seen Collateral? His performance is solid and his intensity makes up for any height inadequacies he may have. Sure the casting of a Thomas Jane or a Jeffrey Dean Morgan might have been better visually for the character. However, the film would probably not have been made with them attached. I’m just grateful Tom Cruise is still interested in getting films like these made and still giving it his all in these roles. Along with Cruise, there are some polished performances from Robert Duvall, Rosamund Pike, and Richard Jenkins. Werner Herzog, for his tiny amount of screen time, will make your skin crawl.
The action that is in Jack Reacher, is painful to watch. Not because it is bad, but because McQuarrie makes you feel every punch, kick, crash, and bullet. McQuarrie has ties to the Navy Seals and has shot probably the most realistic gun fight in cinema history already. So, he knows his way around an action scene. The great thing about his action scenes, however, is that there seems to always be a story in them. It isn’t just mindless violence. Each blow or shot has a reason behind it and an arc to get there. And in light of recent events in Connecticut, the opening scene provides perhaps the most gasp worthy suspenseful moment in the film.
Jack Reacher will probably get lost in the holiday shuffle with Hobbits and Djangos roaming about. However, if you want some suspense and GRIT to top off your egg nog…hop on a bus…pack light…real light…Get Jack Reacher…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.