Review Roundup - Continue? Yes/No

EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014) 

In a return to science fiction, Tom Cruise stars in this adaptation of Japanese novella All You Need is Kill, keeping it's story of an alien invasion in which soldiers become trapped in a time loop. While that title and the cast has unfortunately been Westernised (Edge of Tomorrow is very Star Trek) this is at least an improvement on his previous vehicle Oblivion. Taking cues from the likes of Groundhog Day and more recently Source Code, this is never as good as either of those films but at least offers an action filled adventure that manages to maintain a sense of humour and has a well paced story. While it has a lot of fun and some fine spectacle, several aspects lead to it being essentially flimsy and it lacks the depth that could have been afforded by having such a brain wracking central concept. It also doesn't help that some elements lead to clichés and strange plot holes that could have been avoided considering the amount of rewrites the script went through. Still, while it's never excellent it mostly works.


Officer Cage (Cruise, originally written as Keiji) a PR man thrown onto the front line for attempted blackmail, finds himself reliving the military's last ditch attack after being killed in the assault. He has no experience of warfare, he's just a talker. By teaming up with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt, keeping the original name) a veteran who has been through this but lost that power, they plan a way to win what is at first a futile battle by learning more and more, one day at a time. With death required to send him back in time, the makers seem to understand there is comedy to be mined instead of just having an all out dark and gritty look at the futility of war. This brings a problem to the table however, in that darker ideas and character development are left aside in place of popcorn entertainment. Which isn't a negative thing entirely, but they could have expanded on certain elements while keeping a fun balance. A single scene shows the toll this is taking; having tried endlessly to get through the lines with Vrataski, Cage starts to think this will never work out - at least for the both of them. He's seen the way it all plays out so many times that it drains any motivation. But it's brief and later gives in to unnecessary saccharine with a predictable ending. Despite the deliberate use of European beaches to convey a sense of seriousness this is at the core just a throwaway action film. Real characterisation is never reached even if the cast is likeable throughout.

The real issues arise from any closer examination of the story as it unfolds. Cage is shown as a TV personality selling the war effort, but nobody he meets knows him or believes his story about being forced into the battle; instead they are all told he's a deserter and never question this. Maybe troops in Britain don't get the US news? They go further later on by taping his mouth shut when he tells them about the future; it's played for laughs but seems a little strange when he knows such fine details. Rita is being shown to the public as a hero but she still has to go in with the other grunts, and they never explore this propaganda angle or offer any satire. The enemy is named as "the Mimics" but they never mimic anything except a mass of writhing tentacles. By the time the finale comes along this silliness starts to pile up, but this kind of shallow writing is just weak rather than something which derails the whole story. The military use of powered armour (the kind they had to cut from Starship Troopers) offers some fun visuals, even if like the aliens they are not particularly well designed. They should have looked to the original illustrations for sleeker costumes. But overall this is still a good time, and for once in this genre the pace and fun factor keep things moving along to avoid it becoming a complete shambles.

3/5

BONUS REVIEW
UNDER THE SKIN (2013)



Scarlett Johansson drives a van around Scotland to lure men into an alien soup. Yep, that's it. As a premise this allows for a number of weird and sinister moments - as well as some neat visuals - but the film has a number of other elements fighting for attention and doesn't ever consolidate them into a fully formed narrative. The horror aspect is the strongest and offers some very creepy material, but the use of hidden camera footage comes across as jarring when it's clear that the non actors have been asked to take part in the other parts of the film. By suggesting this early on it's a distraction to have time to think who is real and who is acting. A third act in which our nameless woman starts to do more than hunt for human prey is a nice turn of events, and there are various scenes that suggest her view of our society as she she explores it - but this is never fleshed out. They do manage to convey a sense of character from someone that has little dialogue but like everything it could have gone a little further to give it all more weight. Still if you're looking for a slow, atmospheric and unsettling piece of sci-fi come drama it might be worth a look.

3/5