For 30 years I’ve loved The Twilight Zone, a passion rekindled recently with the Blu ray box set.
Those relatively cheap black and white dramas, many penned by Rod Serling, were either 30 or 60 minute ’what if?’ dramas. They created great premises for broader canvases, bigger budget, big screen offerings, some of which (Real Steel) were turned into A-list epics.
The Edge of Tomorrow could have been another of Serling’s mini masterpieces, the ’what if’ tale of a soldier resurrected to fight an alien war on Earth.
In this case Tom Cruise is William Cage, the cocky PR man railroaded to fight against an extra-terrestrial enemy. However, his unit is decimated in a Saving Private Ryan-style attack in Normandy, and Cage wakes up a few hours earlier to live the day over and hopefully glean enough information to defeat the enemy.
Yes, it’s a video game-style premise with Cage’s seemingly unlimited lives a handy perk as he tries to level up.
He’s helped by Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), the poster girl warrior who may or may not know more about Cage’s condition than he first thinks.
What follows, for the first two thirds at least, is a snappily paced mix of Groundhog Day, Starship Troopers, Aliens and The Matrix, as our heroes fight whizzing, murderous creatures with the aid of clunky exo-suits.
At one point Cage’s automated metal skeleton runs out of energy and powers down. He steps from it and leaves it standing, an empty shell. And for me that is the third act.
Whatever wonderful ’story battery’ powered this multi-million dollar vehicle simply runs out of energy and becomes a generic, by-the-numbers adventure, hampered by the same murky, digitally graded darkness that plagued X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Hunger Games 2.
I’m so bored of action scenes taking place in darkness, especially when the antagonists are so abstract.
Through it all, Cruise is his usual committed self, but Blunt steals the show as the fearless posh trooper, who lights up every scene she’s in.
In a nice nod to Aliens, Bill Paxton is the gruff Sergeant Farell, commanding his drop ship troops. The scope of the movie is impressive, and director Doug Liman handles the action with flair, but the ghosts of Mr and Mrs Smith and Jumper’s humdrum finales return to haunt us.
Whether by design or accident there is a feeling we’ve been here before with Tom’s earlier work, notably Minority Report (outwitting the enemy with pre-emptive moves) or last year’s elegant but sterile Oblivion (hero attempts to destroy big alien brain intelligence thing and wipe out enemy forces in one fell swoop. Smart move, but yawnsomely predictable.)
Sadly the final scenes are also a let down, as are the closing titles. Recent Marvel offerings Iron Man, Avengers Assemble and Thor: The Dark World have offered stylish, engaging credits, but EOT looks like it was created a decade ago with a generic closing song and a feeling that the budget had all been spent by the time those last bits had to be tagged on.
I really wanted to like Tom’s latest. I adore his positivity and enthusiasm for big crowd pleasers like this, but feel that when you strip away the shell of the movie, you’re left with a sub-standard Twilight Zone episode with a rubbish pay-off.
A real shame.