Groundhog’s Day does Starship Troopers.
That is the fundamental idea behind Doug Liman’s film Edge of Tomorrow, an adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel All You Need is Kill (A literal interpretation of the high concept but loses something in translation, I think). The sci-fi action tale is set in the near future when an alien invasion has conquered Europe and power-armored troops are sent out to re-fight the battle of Normandy, but things go terribly wrong. For Major Cage, his death is only the start of his problems. He relives the invasion again and again, only to die and reset. The only way out of his hellish cycle is to single-handedly win the war against an impossible foe.
Anyone who has seen the trailer knows to look out for amazing CGI work from a dream team of graphics and special effects groups (Nvizible, The Third Floor, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and more). It makes sense. This films has the busiest aliens that I have ever seen, flowing liquid metal glowing octopi death-tops are an overachievement of sorts, frequently too vizually spastic to be appreciated,which makes for a whole lot of wasted rendering in my humble opinion.
Tom Cruize may be a nutball off-screen but he steps once more into his life’s calling as a sci-fi/fantasy action hero, and Emily Blunt’s Rita, his time-traveling love interest, is a physical and dramatic presence on screen. There is a smorgasbord of action-adventure faces in the supporting cast. Jonas Armstrong from BBC’s Robin Hood acts along Bill Paxton of Aliens fame, and Brendan Gleeson does a solid performance as the general in charge of the united Earth armies.
This film was released around D-Day for a reason, and the homages are obvious. I have no problem with that. A military film could do worse than to emulate one of the greatest military actions of the past century.
There is some solid character growth to chew on. Cruise’s character begins as a manipulative scumbag and turns into an honorable man and a good soldier, an element of Groundhog Day essential to the reboot sci-fi format. He learns courage, loyalty, and becomes a leader of men instead of a tool. That payoff is a fair portion of what makes this film work.
Like many sci-fi films based on novels NOT written by L. Ron Hubbard, this action flick has solid grounding in thought. The reason for the reboot is explained, logical, and the seemingly invincible power to repeat a day until victory is tied to the aliens, and has some surprising vulnerabilities as well. There is solid logical consistency, the technology has limits that are comprehensible and stable. Romance is about a lot more than sex, and the ending is perfectly consistent with the premise of the film.
I would love to say more, but spoilers would abound.
My medieval Christian nature found a lot to like about this film as well. There is the concept of loyalty, and a deeper courage of daring to love and open up in life after great pain and loss. The losers of J-Squad start off as comic relief and eventually show the value in the undervalued, something that I appreciate. Dedication to a higher goal with the knowledge of self-sacrifice plays a delightful tension with the desire to protect one’s loved ones. But what does one do when the loved one is another soldier? That question of how to love someone whose life is a risk, without destroying their life by overprotecting or destroying the love in self-protection is a true and honest question that shows up in this film as it has shown up in literature since the American Civil War and before it.
I won’t tell the answers.
Go see it yourself.
I think the visual effects were nice, but too busy to justify the 3D. If you want to watch it frame by frame on a 3D TV when it comes out, there will be many things to enjoy, but it is not really worth the extra money and not needed for the story.
(How to Train Your Dragon II will be an entirely different story.)
I highly recommend this original and engaging bit of sci-fi.