Action Blu-ray Review

Battle-Tested Blu-ray Review: Edge of Tomorrow

October 8, 2014Ben Mk


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Live and let die...

Tom Cruise fought aliens in War of the Worlds. And he played a soldier in A Few Good Men. So what happens when you combine the two? You get Tom Cruise as a soldier who fights aliens in Edge of Tomorrow, of course. Well, sort of. Cruise's character in director Doug Liman's unique sci-fi actioner is somewhat of a departure from the type of heroes he usually plays, as he takes on the role of a reluctant solider thrust knee-deep into an all-or-nothing battle against an invading alien species. Irregardless, it's one of Cruise's best on-screen performances, and it deserves to be seen on Blu-ray.

   

The Film Based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka's 2004 novel, All You Need is Kill, Edge of Tomorrow unfolds in the near-future, five years after the Earth is invaded by an army of octopod-like aliens known as the Mimics (so named for their ability to impersonate our actions). Cruise plays Major William Cage, a PR man with the United States Military Media, whose task it is to "sell" humanity's bloody and ongoing war against the Mimics to the general population.

Despite being seventy nations strong, the United Defense Force has been struggling in their battle with the hostile alien invaders. But the tide has recently started to turn, thanks to the development of new exo-suit jacket technology, combined with the unmatched lethality of the UDF's most prolific soldier, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) — dubbed the "Full Metal Bitch" — whose claim to fame is that she slaughtered one hundred Mimics on her first day out on the battlefield. Now, the UDF is poised to wage their most ambitious military campaign yet: "Operation Downfall", a massive mechanized invasion to take place along the shores of France, the Mediterranean and Scandinavia, designed to vanquish the Mimic threat once and for all.

To help spin the media coverage of Operation Downfall, General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) intends on embedding Cage and a camera crew with the troops on the leading edge of the assault. But when Cage refuses — citing the fact that he isn't combat-ready and can't even stand the sight of blood — Brigham has him charged with desertion, demoted to Private and deployed to the front line anyway.

There, Cage reluctantly joins the ranks of J Squad, a rag-tag outfit commanded by hard-nosed Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton), as they and virtually every other soldier in the UDF are dropped directly into the thick of battle. But instead of the brilliantly-strategized military attack that they envisioned, the soldiers are overwhelmed by the Mimic horde; and in the ensuing chaos, Cage is killed by a Mimic (but not before managing to reciprocate the favor, getting splattered with the creature's blood in the process).

And so we arrive at the crux of the film, as Cage awakens back at the base (about to be introduced to Farell and J Squad all over again), soon learning that his exposure to the Mimic blood has gifted him with one of the enemy's unique talents: the ability to "reset the day" by dying. Working together with Vrataski — who's all too familiar with this situation, having once possessed the same power — he tries to harness the full potential of his newfound ability, using it to stay one step ahead of the aliens, in the hopes of defeating them once and for all.

The film's basic concept may not seem all that ingenious, considering the similarly-themed Source Code and the like-minded time-travel thriller Looper, but it's how Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth structure the narrative and execute the action that make Edge of Tomorrow utterly engaging and thoroughly engrossing. For although the movie often revisits previous events, never does it feel repetitive or dull. Instead, each do-over provides viewers with fresh perspective, humor, levity or emotion. Clever editing also plays a role here, as does Liman's brilliant usage of quick-cut montages.

The lack of character archetypes is also a refreshing change of pace. Cruise isn't a heroic soldier at the outset; instead, he begins the story as a coward and is forced to mature into the role by dying again and again on the battlefield (one of the highlights of the movie, thanks to Cruise's committed performance). Likewise, Blunt's character isn't just a potential love interest for Cage; she's a strong female warrior first and foremost. Neither of them are genre clichés, and their constantly evolving relationship dynamic helps keep things interesting.

Otherwise, the film is just plain visually astounding, and not just due to whiz-bang CG effects. Of course, it does contain plenty of that too (most notably in its realization of the Mimic aliens, which reference the same creepy squid-like design aesthetic as The Matrix's Sentinels), but its visuals also have a real-world grittiness about them that help ground the storytelling. Whether it's the unmistakable similarities between Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Normandy or the haunting depiction of cities left devastated by alien attack, it's yet another way that Edge of Tomorrow elevates itself above mass market genre fare.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Edge of Tomorrow arrives combat-ready on Blu-ray, armed with a striking A/V presentation that will take audiences' breath away. The hi-def transfer possesses all the qualities one might expect of a newly-minted release: strong contrast, inky blacks and colors that accurately reproduce cinematographer Dion Beebe's battle-scarred palette (which is packed with military greens and gun-metal greys and punctuated by bursts of fiery oranges, ruby reds and deep ocean blues). It also exhibits a fantastic amount of visual detail, laying bare everything from the mechanical intricacies of the UDF's exo-suits to the writhing strands of alien flesh that intertwine to form the Mimics' pulsing, grey tendrils. And it's perfectly complement by the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack, which makes a memorable sonic impact thanks to its robust recreation of the sounds of futuristic war - from the buzzing and whirring of the exo-suits' servos working away as soldiers stomp their way into the battlefield to the barrage of heavy weapons fire, explosions and the shrill screeches of the Mimics - not to mention composer Christophe Beck's thrilling and action-packed score.

Special Features Warner's Blu-ray release includes DVD and UltraViolet digital copies of the film, plus 76 minutes of HD special features, the most substantial of which is the 43-minute making-of documentary, On the Edge with Doug Liman. Utilizing behind-the-scenes footage of principal photography and cast and crew interviews, the doc does an excellent job providing a well-rounded look at the film's production, covering such topics as its visual design, the collaborative nature of the script development process and, of course, Cruise's world-famous work ethic.

Aside from that, there are a handful of featurettes included: Operation Downfall - Adrenaline Cut is a 3-minute supercut of Cage and Vrataski battling Mimics on the shores of France (minus all the times they died and had to start over); Storming the Beach is a 9-minute look at the WWII-inspired action of Operation Downfall's beach invasion (specifically, how the sequence was conceived and filmed); the 8-minute Weapons of the Future is an examination of the the UDF's weaponry (the exo-suits, as well as the drop ship used to deploy troops into battle) that also touches on the stuntwork and the actors' rigorous physical training; and Creatures Not of This World spends 6 minutes elaborating on the Mimics (their concept, visual look and the design of their movements). Last but not least, the disc also includes a collection of seven Deleted Scenes, running 8 minutes in total.


The Bottom Line Oddly enough, Edge of Tomorrow appears to have undergone a slight retooling, with respect to its title, and is now known as Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (if the Blu-ray cover art is any indication). Thankfully, however, the movie itself remains unchanged. It's still the same intelligent, witty and thrilling piece of filmmaking that hit multiplexes this past Summer. And even though it was unfairly dismissed by some moviegoers during its theatrical run, all fans of Cruise, sci-fi or action films owe it to themselves to give it another chance on Blu-ray: if not for the film itself (which deserves to be called one of Cruise's best on-screen works), then for the impeccable A/V presentation and insightful extras that Warner have bestowed upon its Blu-ray release. Because Edge of Tomorrow is one Blu-ray you'll definitely want to watch again... and again... and again.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  








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