Sunday 20 July 2014

Edge of Tomorrow by Christopher McQuarrie and the Butterworths

What a fantastic movie. I was expecting just another sf-action summer blockbuster, but it really is outstanding. It's a substantial hit, too, so by the time you read this it will still be hanging on in cinemas. Or, at worst, it will be available on DVD, Blu-ray or for download. Well worth seeing on the big screen, though.

As you may have heard, it's a kind of hybrid of Aliens and Groundhog Day, but that doesn't begin to convey what a splendid experience it is. It's an expert piece of work by the director Doug Liman, who did the first Jason Bourne thriller The Bourne Identity, and Jumper — not a film about knitwear, but instead another inventive science fiction thriller.

The script is credited to three writers.  Christopher McQuarrie previously won an Oscar for his screenplay The Usual Suspects  and wrote and directed the excellent Jack Reacher and worked on the script of Jack the Giant Slayer.

Jez Butterworth is a distinguished stage writer who wrote the stage plays Mojo and Jerusalem and previously worked with Liman on the thriller Fair Game in collaboration with his brother John-Henry Butterworth, who is the third credited writer on the script.

It's based on All You Need is Kill, an amusingly titled Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka which was later adapted into a manga (a Japanese comic book).

It's a beautifully written, engrossing film and the time-loop structure allows for some very interesting character development. Most refreshingly, Tom Cruise does not begin the movie as a square jawed hero with nerves of steel. Instead he's a kind of craven, draft-dodging PR man. Only through the iterations of the story does he transform, very gratifyingly, into a square jawed hero with nerves of steel. Indeed Cruise is great in the film. He has never been better.

And Emily Blunt is just wonderful (be still my heart) and adds tremendous emotional depth to the story. Only an utterly ungallant and churlish fellow would point out that it's not her doing that difficult yoga posture in the long shot.

Blunt and Cruise are really only the tip of the iceberg in terms of acting talent on display here. Brendan Gleeson is first rate as the sceptical commanding general and Noah Taylor from Game of Thrones (looking eerily like Ben Mendelsohn) is fine as the movie's resident scientist. 

But special mention has to be made of Bill Paxton as a deep fried Southern master sergeant ("You're American!" exclaims Cruise, delighted to find a compatriot. "No suh!" sax Paxton. "I'm from Kentucky.")

The time loop structure also allows (as in Groundhog Day) for much comedy. Wait for the beautifully choreographed sequence in which Cruise and Blunt infiltrate the military headquarters.

There is great use of London locations. And I had the oddly moving experience of watching the film — which hinges on a bloody beach head invasion of the European mainland — on the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

 Writing this makes me want to see it again. Where's my local movie listings?...

A delightful, terrifically exciting, deeply moving movie. Watch. Enjoy. Repeat.

(Image credits: rather surprisingly thin pickings at the usually reliable Ace Show Biz for this major movie.)

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