Emily Blunt

Edge Of Tomorrow

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2014

Warner Brothers Pictures

Directed by Doug Limon

Produced by Erwin Stoff

Screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth

Based on “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

After all these years Hollywood has finally managed to do it. They’ve made a video game movie that actually is entertaining to watch and is clever enough that most people who watch it won’t even realize they’re watching a video game movie. But make no mistake; that’s exactly what EDGE OF TOMORROW is. Whenever the hero dies, his life is reset back to a starting point and he has to start all over again. But each time he gets a little further as he gains more knowledge and experience. And there are different levels where he has to accomplish certain tasks before he can move onto the next level.

The story begins in the fifth year of a vicious war humanity is waging against an alien race called Mimics. All of Earth’s armies have combined into the United Defense Force and it’s the job of a slick public relations officer, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) to keep the propaganda machine well oiled. He’s assigned by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) to provide on the spot coverage from the front line during Operation Downfall, an all-out invasion of Europe, which is entirely under Mimic control. Cage is no combat soldier and foolishly tries to blackmail the General to get out of the assignment. Brigham promptly has Cage arrested, stripped of his rank and thrown to the tender mercy of Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton) and his squad of misfits.

Cage and the squad land on the beaches of Normandy and are quickly wiped out by the hordes of Mimics who have apparently been waiting for them. Cage doesn’t last five minutes but is covered in the blood of an Alpha Mimic and it’s this that “resets” him every time he dies. Every time Cage gets killed he immediately wakes up on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport on the morning of the day before Operation Downfall.

Now it doesn’t take Cage long to figure out what has happened and of course he can get no one to believe him. No one except Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) known as “The Angel of Verdun” due to her spectacular victory there where she slaughtered hundreds of Mimics by herself while wearing a Jacket.  Jackets are armored exoskeletons that effectively turn a soldier into a walking tank. It would do that for Cage if he could only figure out how to turn the damn thing on.

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Turns out that Rita once had the ability to “reset” as well and it was this ability that allowed her to kill so many Mimics at Verdun. Before she lost her ability she learned of The Omega Mimic which is the consciousness that controls all the other Mimics and can also reset time. Rita agrees to train Cage so that he can survive long enough to get them to The Omega Mimic and destroy it.

Once you get the gimmick behind the time loop, you can sit back and relax and just enjoy the mayhem. Cage gets progressively better at using his Jacket and since he remembers when and how he and Rita get killed in the previous life he’s able to use that knowledge to avoid getting killed the same way twice and get closer and closer to his goal. You’d think that a movie about a time loop would be repetitive but there’s some really funny moments thrown in to break up the grimness of the story. And I wonder if Rita isn’t a statement on video game players who have no patience with the game they’re playing when they can’t advance as when she gets frustrated she simply kills Cage to “reset” everything and start all over.

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The Mimics aren’t terribly clever enemies. Looking like great big whirling balls of tentacles they’re simply here to fulfill what every video game needs: something to shoot at. Don’t go in expecting a lot of characterization here either. We’re told exactly what we need to know about the characters, no more and no less. I did like how Tom Cruise wasn’t playing his usual gung ho Man Of Action who jumps into the fray with fearless abandon. Will Cage is a coward, straight up and he’s not in the least bit ashamed to admit it. He has to grow and develop into being a hero and Cruise sells it well.

It’s always fun to see Bill Paxton, no matter what and Emily Blunt does a more than capable job backing up Tom Cruise. So how does EDGE OF TOMORROW measure up against the other science fiction/action movies Tom Cruise has done? It’s light years ahead of “War of The Worlds” and “Oblivion” but doesn’t come close to touching “Minority Report” It’s an undemanding movie that does exactly what it’s designed to do: provide you with 113 minutes of spectacular action. It’s also a lot smarter than I expected and a lot more fun as well. It’s the best video game you’re going to see at the movies this summer. Enjoy.

edge-of-tomorrow

113 minutes

PG-13

 

 

 

The Adjustment Bureau

2011

Universal Pictures

Directed and Screenplay written by George Nolfi

Produced by Chris Moore

Based on the short story “Adjustment Team” by Philip K. Dick

There’s nothing I love better than being surprised by a movie.  I’ve seen so many for so many years that I admit I’ve gotten pretty cocky about being able to tell how most movies are going to go about thirty minutes in.  I’m happy to say that didn’t happen with THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU.  How could I have guessed that a paranoid conspiracy thriller was just a disguise for a love story about the nature of free will?

David Norris (Matt Damon) is a politician from Brooklyn, NY running for the United States Senate.  He’s embraced by the public who love his youth, his energy and his boyish optimism.  None of that helps when an embarrassing incident from his past catches up with him and he loses the election.  It’s when he’s at this darkest moment that he meets Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) who’s hiding in a stall in the men’s room.  They hit it off to such an amazing degree that David is inspired to go out and give a concession speech that’s better than most victory speeches.

David goes to work for his campaign manager with an eye to make another Senate run a few years down the road and believe it or not, one day while riding the bus to work he sits right down next to Elise.  This despite the best efforts of a group of men who dress like Madison Avenue advertising executives led by Richardson (John Slattery).  They carry small black books whose pages are filled with complicated designs that shift and move on their own.  They have the ability to teleport great distances simply by walking through certain doorways.  They can influence and cause seemingly random events to occur.  They can read minds.  They make cryptic references to ‘The Plan’ and they seem extremely interested in keeping David away from Elise.  Indeed, they go so far as to explain to David who and what they are.

They work for The Adjustment Bureau and their job is to make sure that everybody’s life goes according to ‘The Plan’.  David asks if they’re angels.  “We prefer to think of ourselves as caseworkers.” replies Harry (Anthony Mackie) who is unusually sympathetic to David’s case.  He’s certainly an easier caseworker to deal with than Thompson (Terrence Stamp).  Nicknamed ‘The Hammer’ he’s called in to deal with David’s case when despite every effort of The Adjustment Bureau, David keeps meeting Elise.  David’s screwing around with ‘The Plan’ as he and Elise were only supposed to meet once and never again.  And if David keeps on screwing around with ‘The Plan’ then Thompson is going to be forced to demonstrate to David exactly how he got his nickname…

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU really blindsided me in a good way.  I expected automatic weapons and car chases halfway through the movie.  Instead what I got was a really intelligent discussion between David and Thompson on the nature of free will and does mankind truly possess it or not.  Due to the acting power of Matt Damon and Terence Stamp it’s a discussion just as thrilling as any car chase.  Not that we don’t get a great chase where David learns how to use the doors himself and with Elise is pursued all over New York, trying to stay one step ahead of Thompson and The Adjustment Bureau.  It’s just that the whole point of the movie isn’t chases or explosions.  It’s about a man willing to defy forces greater than himself for True Love.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch “Mad Men” with a straight face after this movie since John Slattery looks as if he came right from the set of that TV show to do this movie.  He’s quietly amusing, playing Richardson as an overworked bureaucrat who just wants the paperwork to be straight.  Anthony Mackie has a pivotal role in the movie that he’s more than able to handle and it’s from his character that we get a lot of the information about The Adjustment Bureau and how it works.

But the movie wouldn’t work without the chemistry between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.  Yeah, their Meet Cute is an eye-roller but given what is learned later on, it makes sense.  If the chemistry between them doesn’t work, it’s not going to sell the story.  Fortunately, it did for me.  Their courtship is sweet and simple.  It’s the outside forces trying to keep them apart that complicate things.  Matt Damon really is a wonderful actor.  He can do comedy and drama and he never appears to be working hard at either.  Emily Blunt I’ve enjoyed more in movies like “Sunshine Cleaning” “Boudica” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” but that’s not to say she isn’t good here.

So should you see THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU?  Absolutely.  It’s a remarkably smart movie with good, solid performances and a mind-bending premise solidly rooted in a love story where the protagonists truly deserve to be in love because of what they do, not just because the girl can crinkle her nose just so cutesy-poo or because the guy’s a hunk.  Highly recommended.

106 minutes

Rated PG-13