Edge of Tomorrow: When Groundhog Day Meets the Matrix and Succeeds as Both.

Nowadays, it’s unfortunately rare that you come across a movie far greater than its trailer. With the sheer colossal amount of money and time invested into a product’s advertising, what you as a theater-goer are usually subjected to is a trailer revealing the funniest jokes, most memorable dialogue, most stunning action scenes, and even in some occasions its most significant twists.

The audience laughs, quietly (or not) whispers to their neighbor, “this looks good,” and then in a few months buys that ticket, only to be disappointed because the film couldn’t live up to the promotional hype. After a while, you’re thinking “what’s the point of even seeing the movie when you get all the best parts of it for free in its trailer?”

And honestly, I don’t have the answer to that.

Thankfully, however, Edge of Tomorrow is not like those movies. Nothing about the sci-fi film’s time-loop (a reference to Groundhog Day), dystopia ruled by alien machine creatures (The Matrix), or frantically running Tom Cruise (every movie he’s ever been in) felt banal or forced.

In fact, the movie’s references act as a tasteful homage to the aforementioned films, creating a clever and thrilling sci-fi action flick that is simply one of the best summer blockbusters I’ve ever seen.

The film starts with Major Bill Cage (Tom Cruise), a cocky public relations officer, assuring General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) that his planned D-Day-like ambush will be a success. The General, having a distaste for the major’s callowness, proposes Cage join in on the “fun,” prompting Cage to admit his own preference to stay out of combat, as he’s “never really felt like a soldier.” Of course, what follows is that he’s arrested, stripped of his rank, and sent to be on the front lines.

Cage wakes up on a pile of baggage and is immediately met with a tongue-in-cheek barrage of orders from two Master Sergeants, whom Cage would have superiority over if not for his rank being stripped to private. They lead him to get ready for the impending attack, introducing him to his new teammates in J-team, and to the combat ex0-skeleton suit he will be wearing in battle.

Upon arriving on the beach, they quickly realize the alien machine creatures called Mimics have been anticipating their arrival, and what follows is one of the most intense cinematic action sequences I’ve ever seen. Although shown briefly in the trailers, the set up in the movie creates an unparalleled tension through Cage’s inability to operate his suit and utter helplessness in battle. Pairing that with truly terrifying squid-like beasts that rip through the soldiers with incredible ease, as a viewer you can’t help but feel overwhelmed with adrenaline.

In a way, I’m kind of perplexed by the film’s PG-13 rating. While the film has little language (a few instances of the “s-word,” and half of an “f-word”), next to zero themes of sexuality, and not much in the way of gore/blood, I imagined the intensity of the fight scenes alone would have garnered an R rating in a similar vein as There Will Be Blood, which had an R rating almost exclusively for the intense and mature nature of the non-explicit story. Either way, parents should exhibit caution before bringing a young teen, and even may want to do a screening for themselves first.

Of course, what follows very soon after landing on the beach is Cage’s first of many, many deaths, and unlike Groundhog Day, which gave no reason for Bill Murray’s constant limbo in Punxsutawney (and arguably needed no reason to), Edge of Tomorrow explains the cause of Cage’s time loop in a way that is fascinating and believable given the universe. While I won’t spoil it here, just know that when the time-loop comes into effect, the movie gets a whole lot more interesting–and funny!

With his new found power of essentially invincibility, Cage is quick to make use of it by anticipating what people will say and do. Just as Murray used the ability to know when a mayor would choke on his food and a car full of old women would get a flat tire, Cage begins to use his power to make the Master Sergeant giving him trouble look like a fool, and gain the respect of his teammates through knowing them so thoroughly.

More importantly, however, he attempts to save his teammates in J-squad from their quick deaths on the battlefield. This eventually leads to his meeting with Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) who notices his uncanny ability to predict the precise moment of when a Mimic will attack. “Find me when you wake up,” she says, revealing that she knows what is happening to him.

Although Cage becomes more adept every day as he memorizes the events on the battlefield with greater accuracy (and learns a few tricks with his suit), he finds he is still unable to singlehandedly win the battle, and must instead seek a different means of victory.

Against all expectations and early impressions, Edge of Tomorrow is a powerful, clever, and enthralling action story that doesn’t sacrifice brains for brawn. In fact, it’s the only action movie in recent memory that I can say succeeds on every level. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt’s acting is top-notch, the battle sequences are terrifyingly intense, and the writing chops of Christopher McQuarrie, best known for his Oscar winning screenplay for The Usual Suspects, are operating at full capacity. Simply put, Edge of Tomorrow is the perfect summer blockbuster, and one everyone should see in IMAX 3D if possible.

Review: Pro-Marriage Message wrapped in Delightful but Crude Comedy in ‘Five Year Engagement’

Jason Segel is well on his way to a Hollywood double threat: A leading man who can make the ladies swoon and who can write the screenplays to do it. Plus, he seems to have something to say.

In “The Five Year Engagement,” opening today, he takes on one of modern romance’s sacred cows: That couples may live together, but must have every detail of finance, career, family, and future worked out before tying the knot.

Really, why wait?

Like Judd Apatow who produced this film, Segel and co-writer and director Nicholas Stoller serve up lots of laughs. They are the sugar that make the mature, even conservative, medicine of a message do down.

Segel plays Tom, a sous chef with a tasty future in San Francisco. As the movie opens, he proposes to Violet (Emily Blunt), his girlfriend of one year, an aspiring professor of psychology. They’re both old enough to know their own mind. They’re also madly in love, even if their particular romantic story involves a bunny suit and a Princess Diana costume.

Of course she says yes.

That’s the point where most romantic comedies end, but this one is just beginning.

Then it’s time to plan their wedding, hoping to do so before their remaining grandparents, well, kick the bucket. Life, however, has a habit of getting in the way. One circumstance after another postpones the nuptials until both wonder if they were such a good idea after all.

A word to guys contemplating this film: rest easy. It’s not a wedding movie, the type with the funny planner and the crazy in-laws. No one ends up falling into the cake.

Instead, it’s a life and relationship movie. It starts at “happily ever after,” but those of us who are married know that “saying yes to the dress” is a beginning, not an endpoint.

The film follows Violet and Tom as they chase career goals, make sacrifices for one another, and deal with temptations, all the while with that pesky ceremony hanging over their head.

You see, in one sense, they’re already married. They share a home and a bed, love each other, and share lives. So why is the ceremony important? And yet, somehow, it is.

It matters.

Tom and Violet, however, keep putting it off because of life details they haven’t yet worked out. Where will they live? Where will they work? They don’t know even as they accept career opportunities and move across the country for them. The business of life goes on even while their marriage waits to begin.

It’s when they see that this is exactly what marriage is that they realize how silly they’ve been. “We can’t solve all our problems before we marry and we’ll have some after,” Violet tells Tom, but it’s time to take a leap of faith.

Contrasted with them are Violet’s sister (Community’s Alison Brie) and Alex (Parks and Recreation’s Chris Pratt), whose shotgun marriage becomes a success, despite all the odds.

Get on with it, the movie is saying. Grow up.

Or, as Violet’s mother puts it, “You don’t have to explore every cookie. You pick one and take a bite.”

Like the rest of the Apatow oeuvre, the movie makes a shockingly conservative argument in an equally shockingly coarse manner. The movie is rated R for a reason. With lots of profanity and crude conversation and plenty of humorous sex depicted, it’s a movie for grown-ups. It never goes quite as far as Knocked Up or The 40 Year Old Virgin, the difference being several jokes about things like masturbation but no actual depictions of it.

While it doesn’t shy away from coarse humor, the film gets its laughs more from the study of human nature and slapstick than from shocks: The stay-at-home dad who knits his own horrific sweaters; the attempt, during a foot chase, to climb over a car that goes horribly wrong; the psychology graduate students who are slightly unhinged themselves. It’s hilarious.

Its occasionally juvenile humor makes the truth of the message easy to swallow. Marriage is a leap, it says, but jump on in. The water is fine.

Just fine.

 


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