‘Edge of Tomorrow’ not genius but ridiculously entertaining

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Welcome to the apocalypse. The world is at war. In “Edge of Tomorrow,” Earth has been invaded by a vastly superior alien army that threatens to consume human existence. All seems to be lost. There is hope, however, in the form of humanity’s Bellerofonte — pyrrhic prowess and the mech suit.

Tom Cruise’s soon-to-be box-office heavy hitter is a futuristic military movie, which provides a pleasing change of pace from the generic linear action structure. Though it’s not an inconceivable artistic proposition and captures the essence of what’s tolerably stereotypical, it is enjoyable and somehow believable. The movie is just a wonder of technology. It is fun to watch, and even if one disregards the storyline, the visual effects alone — which are brutally amazing — are enough to grip and entertain the viewer. This creates a sense of realism that is expanded through the interaction between humans and aliens. There is no need for an emotional connection exceeding the pure necessity of survival — aliens are abstracted from human understanding.

The only contact the viewer has with the otherworldly entities is through the protagonist’s narrative. There is no sense of purpose, of classified information or of knowledge beyond what the reality of perception would present to us. This uncertainty and lack of background creates a sense of absurd realism, allowing for a more immersive experience —  embedded in almost incredible plausibility —  than what the audience is normally accustomed to in movies of comparable genres and entertainment intentions. It almost invites one to think about what’s going on beyond the millions of dollars invested in CGI once they’ve been satiated in their admiration for the visual splendor.

The plot follows Major William Cage (Cruise), a U.S. Army media star. During the conflict, he assumes the role of a communications celebrity and is comfortable in it. But his fate is abruptly disrupted when he is forced to join the fight during Operation Downfall, humanity’s last intent to take Europe back from its galactic invaders. He falls from his glory — the media’s favorite uniform — to cannon fodder. As he is cast into his baptism of fire in this futuristic D-Day, a coward gets thrown into war only to die.

Destiny, however, appears to be merciful to him, and he is given the chance for redemption as he awakens again and again in the day of his death. He finds himself in a loop of life and death, resetting the day as his last breath is exhaled amid the most ruthless savagery of battle. Over and over he is condemned to watch himself fail and be slaughtered. Although he is impotent, inept and weak as he enters, there is light to be found in the “Angel of Verdun.” Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) is a decorated war hero, personifying mysticism, fortitude and valiance. She is crucial to him, as she seems to be his only anchor to sanity. She alone appears to comprehend the depth of his condition.

“Groundhog Day,” “Saving Private Ryan” and “Alien” are carefully poured into a blender along with $178 million. The result is some of the most enticing action money can buy and a little bit more. A story that does not surprise nor disappoint — it is inadvertently thought-provoking — it is intertwined with the most prodigiously realistic and titanic visuals money can produce.

This nonstop action movie with its traces of comedic intent does not let up. While the necessarily reiterative scenery plays along like a rewound carousel and while the story might allow the spectator to lose focus, the viewer becomes an active participant wondering what the next step will be to take humanity closer to victory when annihilation is absolute and certain. The rampage of “Edge of Tomorrow” is continuous and ridiculously entertaining. The story is not genius, but that is not its aim. It is mildly intelligent and adequately different, and that is more than enough when the cinematography is as capable of sustaining any script just as Atlas is capable of holding the Earth. “Edge of Tomorrow” will have you holding the hand of whoever came with you so tightly that it will hurt. It does not encourage singing for nonspecific fallen heroes, but it entertains and provides an absorbing universe for immersion for as long as humanity stands.

Contact David Socol at [email protected].