By Bill Arceneaux
“Live. Die. Repeat.” This is on all of the posters for the latest Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow. It makes sense as a catchy tagline, giving us an idea as to the badassery of our hero. But, it’s also a slightly clever and obvious if you think about it way of prepping the audience. Tom Cruise, indeed, dies and starts over multiple times in the film. It’s not a difficult time bending concept to keep track of, but it’s good to know going in. In fact, nothing is too difficult in this film. It’s all rather easy to digest. Almost…. almost like his last few movies.
I’m stuck on the word “Repeat” in that tagline.
By no means am I going all negative here. Edge of Tomorrow, like Oblivion before it, is charismatic, well crafted and endlessly watchable. However, like Oblivion before it, it also takes few chances and follows similar threads. Stick with what works, I suppose. And why not? Cruise, typically, is very hands on with his projects, playing Producer pretty frequently, and having a say on the creative side. For the last several projects, he’s succeeded.
Why not exceed as well?
At the start, Cruise plays a character who couldn’t be further from being a soldier. Through a few poorly chosen words, he finds himself on the frontline of a battle with vicious aliens. Now, he never cries or whines, but he sure does sweat and worry a lot. This is interesting, and a bit risky – how many times has Tom played an outright regular guy? But, he does it well, especially when he’s bouncing off dialogue with a stubborn General and some rambunctious infantrymen. The entire opening sequence is impressive not only in its D-Day like depiction of war, but for properly expressing the anxiety of our lead. He is, afterall, not a hero. Yet.
When the plot gets going, the pace picks up, and things eventually settle into the familiar. Things, like in Oblivion:
- An unknown advantage the enemy has
- A young female (with a foreign accent) becomes the love interest
- Tom is the one to go up against the threat solo
- A vehicle/aircraft chase or two
- Rebellion against authority
- Crazy awesome technological advancements
This trip into well-charted territory would be a problem if it didn’t all mesh so well. This stuff works for Tom and it works for us. But, if his character can die, repeat and progress, why can’t Tom?
Jack Reacher is probably Tom’s boldest action flick, mainly because of the challenges it takes, and those that we take in watching. His role (of Jack Reacher) is that of a morally justified one man judge, jury and executioner. He’s righteous and dangerous. He says things that only stone cold killers would say. And he’s the hero of the piece. This presents a conflict for us – do we root for him? – and gives us material to think over.
Edge of Tomorrow, like Oblivion, is more concerned with giving you bang for your buck. Bang in special effects and style, bang in a story both easy to follow and engaging (kind of a sleight of hand, actually) and bang in a lead performance. Fine.
4 / 5 *s
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