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All You Need is Kill: “Edge of Tomorrow” Review

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film Reviews | June 6, 2014 | Comments ()


edgeoftomorrow.jpg

One nice thing about a movie adaptation that completely changes the title of the book is that I don’t even have to think of a proper headline, especially when the original title is as seminal as All You Need is Kill.

I’ll cut to the chase: Edge of Tomorrow is the best science fiction film since District 9. Go see it.

The premise of the movie is very simple: it’s Groundhog Day with power armor. Yes, there’s more plot than that. And yes, it is very good plot. But the gist of the movie is right there in those ubiquitous trailers with the super autotuned intonation that this is not the end. Aliens have invaded. We’re invading Europe to fight them. Tom Cruise keeps reliving the day of the invasion over and over again.

What’s not in the trailer is the persistent humor of the film, which I am to understand is a big part of the novel as well. See, Tom Cruise’s character William Cage is a coward. He’s an advertising jackass who got drafted, pisses off the wrong general, and gets sent to the frontlines of the invasion of Europe. He is not a super soldier. He has literally never even worn power armor before, has no idea how to even turn the safety off of his gun. So he dies. Over and over and over and over and over, and often in completely hilarious ways.

The editing of the film plays a big role in making this work, being willing to make quick cuts after a death to immediately before it happens again on the next time through the day, for both humorous and dramatic effect. A lot of the humor comes from Cage’s interplay with the utter seriousness of Emily Blunt’s character Rita, the “Full Metal Bitch” who is a war hero, a badass, and just happens to fight with an enormous makeshift sword as much as guns.

And though I hesitate to make the comparison, it’s very apt here: it feels like a video game, one of those really hard ones that you end up only winning through muscle memory as much as actual skill. So as Cage gets more and more talented, training and dying hundreds upon hundreds of times, more than anything it’s the memorization of permutations that gets him farther and farther. Two steps forward, shoot to the left, one step back, duck, then shoot to the right, sprint forward fifty feet, die, do it differently next time. It’s gorgeous to watch.

Time loop stories like this resonate so much when done well because underneath they’re stories about experience. They appeal to that belief that we just never have enough time, and that if we did, there would be no limit to what we were capable of. There’s a funny thing in the way these films have the running joke of walking in and picking up training, whether with power armor or the piano, at some arbitrary point where the protagonist left off in the previous iteration. There’s the humorous beat of the confused teacher who just met the protagonist for the time. It strikes us as sort of funny, the idea of living life in these disparate little chunks that get strung together into real learning. But that’s exactly the way real life is, only masked by the illusion we have of it running along as a smooth whole.

But in addition to that humor and action, the film nails the human element, with the growing relationship between Cage and Rita. It’s never forced, and is anything but a tacked on obligatory romance. It’s the slow growth of camaraderie as the day is relived repeatedly. And like Groundhog Day, there is the mounting hopelessness of actually managing to make a difference, of having only the illusion of free will as interminable fate grinds on for the thousandth time.

That crushing despair elevates the film from its simple story to having much more of an emotional appeal than you might expect. While the action is impressive and quite fun, it’s in the quiet moments that the film really finds itself. It’s in those moments that Cruise shines, taking Cage on an evolution from callowly just trying to avoid combat at all, to trying to unravel a way to win, to making winning worth accomplishing at all.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here and order his novel here.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • VohaulsRevenge

    Saw this last night; it was tremendous fun, much better than I expected. And if Rita's "Buster Sword in All But Name" isn't a video game callback, I don't know what is.

  • megaera

    I actually read the light novel, and I'm really excited to see the movie. It actually reminded me of Groundhog Day crossed with John Steakley's Armor (which was like Kafka in a power suit).

    It's possibly worth noting (excellent observational skills, Mr. Wilson!) that the author of the book actually got the idea for this from playing (and re-playing) video games, where the NPC says of your amazing performance on Excoriating Difficulty Level , "You are such a talented and gifted person!" But you know that it's just that you're on life 4,143 making your gameplay so awesome.

  • Andrew

    I'm I the only one who thinks that "All you need is kill" is a stupid-sounding, grammatically incoherent title?

  • jollies

    All your base are belong to us.

  • Kala

    This review makes me terribly happy. Good sci-fi can be hard to come by. And Emily Blunt. Well, come on. Emily Blunt. *Purr*

  • Three_nineteen

    I keep thinking that "Edge of Tomorrow" is a soap opera, but Wikipedia tells me that the soap is "Search For Tomorrow". I still can't take this movie seriously.

  • Melissa D

    There was an Edge of Night! We used to watch it at the babysitters. Good times.

  • brutus

    The trailer makes this look like Jetpack Joyride: The Movie.

  • Cowtools

    Solid review! But can we make more of a fuss over Emily Blunt's character? A totally kickass, super serious but fun, and completely non-sexualised female warrior, with a character arc not defined by her gender at all.

  • stryker1121

    Great! Good sci-fi on the big screen is always welcome. Separate the art from the artist, folks, and give this movie a try!

  • Yes! I went only as far as your "go see it" line, and I'll be back to read after I've seen it.

  • So excited for this. I'm not Cruise's biggest fan by any means, but his sci-fi projects tend to be at least interesting and at best pretty damn good.

    Great review SLW!

  • alwaysanswerb

    I hadn't heard (or had avoided?) much buzz around this since I write off most Tom Cruise projects these days as fuckery. (Sorry, guy!) This review might actually have me reconsidering my ennui re: this movie!

  • Haystacks

    I can't...I just can't. I recoil every time I see Tom Cruise. When he is acting, I can't see the character, only the actor.

  • emmalita

    I am the same with Cruise, but I just saw the movie, and it was fantastic. They take a lot of the things you hate about Cruise and use them to good effect. Plus you get to watch him die a lot. It's worth it.

  • zyzzyva

    You know, I've been the same way.
    However, we saw this last night because I love Emily Blunt and the premise looked really interesting. I ended up loving it. Most of the changes they made from the original Japanese story were very smart (not something I thought I'd say *ever*...). Cruise's character starts out so weasely it's pure schadenfreude to watch the first few loops play out. The humor of it all is truly one of the film's best assets. But the character growth is a joy to watch and actually had Cruise transcending a lot of his off-screen personality because of it.
    Give it a try. If anything, just to watch him bite it over and over and over.

  • VohaulsRevenge

    Ditto. I've never been a Cruise fanboy, but he inhabits the role with humorous aplomb.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    That description reads like Dara O'Briain's bit about him playing video games.

    Also: That plot? And starting on June 6th? Isn't that a little bit blunt?

  • A little bit? That's full on Emily Blunt!

  • BlackRabbit

    And she sure is "smoking" hot. (I wonder at what age she started getting the terrible pot jokes.)

  • birdgal

    I thank you good sir for going there, because that is exactly where my mind went as well.

  • I make no apologies for my love of "dad" comedy.

  • I did think it was sort of hilarious that they released it on this weekend as opposed to the last or the next.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    I can't believe they changed the title. "All You Need is Kill" sounds like an edgy sci-fi thriller with a bit of humor to it. "Edge of Tomorrow" sounds like some navel-gazey, soft-focus "sci-fi" that mostly involves overwrought emotions.

  • Cowtools

    I agree that 'Edge Of Tomorrow' isn't a particularly interesting title, but I don't really understand the affection for the original Japanese title; it just sounds like cheesy 'Engrish', as artificial in its way as the current title.

    I'm also frustrated how discussion of the tile has taken over comment sections in most reviews of this film, when people should be talking about how flipping awesome the film is!

  • Melina

    Every time I see the title I do a little double take and think, "There's another Bond movie out already?" It's very Bondian to me. "All You Need is Kill" sounds awesome and I wouldn't have been as wary if this had been the title, obviously because I'm one of those assholes that judges a book by its cover.

  • Parsnip

    I thought it would make a perfect Bond title.

  • JustOP

    If someone came up to me and said, describe what you think a movie titled 'All You Need is Kill' is about, I don't think 'edgy sci-fi thriller' would come to mind.

    I think I'd probably answer something akin to 'haha, sounds a little nuts, maybe something like Clive Owens 'Shooter/?' In fact, 'Edge of Tomorrow' would insight more of a sci-fi-overtones in me given that a lot of science fiction is about the future, and I could imagine some jumped up futurist CEO giving some maniacal speech about being on the 'Edge of Tomorrow'.

    That said, I actually prefer All You Need is KIll as a title. So I have no idea why I bothered to write this all out.

  • Very true. But then the latter is exactly how they pitched the movie in the trailer and such, so it was a decision that they clearly were conscious that they were making in the advertising push.

  • thanks for the review. I watched the movie just yesterday, and it was impressive both visually and in story telling. Cage and Rita were at the edge of tomorrow but not able to get there even after the omega was destroyed.

  • Genevieve Burgess

    I must really be out of touch with what most people are looking for in their sci-fi movies then, because that makes absolutely no sense to me.

  • Sirilicious

    Thanks. I was wondering if i should go watch it in the theatre or not and then an uproxx review made me think i might wait for a digital viewing. But now I'm somewhat psyched again. I really liked Tom & Emma on The Graham Norton Show last week, it's worth checking out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?.... Emma acting out the first time she had to put on the (heavy) armour is funny (starting 14:22).

  • Guest

    .

  • Sirilicious

    No, Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy.

  • TK

    I appreciate anyone who can make fun of pointless, pedantic corrections.

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