Tom Cruise dies – a lot – in this wildly fun bit of sci-fi action
A sagging inter-species relationship buds a ferocious conflict between humanity and spindly alien Mimics in the raucous Edge of Tomorrow. Tom Cruise spikes the feature with undeniable on-screen charisma, plotting out a stimulating blockbuster which demands attention – and earns it.
Edge of Tomorrow is a lot of things and a domestic box office success is not one of them. Shame on everyone. Bending the rules of life or death and splicing it together with the broad concept of time travel, Cage (Cruise) breaks from the routine of immediate heroism for someone comically fearful. Character development is crafty.
Cage is a media man, a talking head on CNN’s prime time programming and futuristic spokesman in the war on glowy, physics-bending extraterrestrial kind. Cruise’s character is the anti-soldier, an unusual clumsy wimp for an actor typically brought on for his looks. He’s often superseded in prowess by a stoutly brave feminine figure in Rita (Emily Blunt) for a first act role reversal. By the second, it’s the battle suit which grants Cage his brute force, with the suit becoming an impressive bit of engineering, both in the sense of the film’s reality and physical production design. Those mechanical forms are not computer generated (mostly anyway).
The film has a quirk, conceptually pulling the idea from Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Japanese manga: Cage is on repeat. He lives, he dies. Every day. Edge of Tomorrow does not have an off switch until its conclusion forces one. The idea doesn’t allow it, and instead lets the alluring action design open up because who cares if the lead character dies? It’s a gift for those who view Tom Cruise vehemently; he’s shot, stabbed, eaten, crushed, broken, and treated worse than a rag doll in a two year old’s smash happy hands.
In all of this, there exists a wise metaphor where the aliens incite war because it’s intelligent to do so. Mimics use humanity’s angry penchant for warfare as a strategic boon. In doing so, Edge of Tomorrow delivers foreign invaders without ties to any other. Their design, their striking abilities, and invincible methodology never feels cinematically antiquated. Mimics have no apparent desire for water or resources – they want input.
Maybe this is too wacky for wide audiences. Some of Edge of Tomorrow’s surprisingly snarky humor seems to assume that’s the case, downplaying the severity and desperation of the fight for the breezy summer action mold. That’s smart. Edge of Tomorrow becomes as viciously enthralling as its premise is alluring. Script work is drawn snugly to reach action points with astonishing frequency despite the complexity embedded in the time bending rule set. Other major studio franchises could learn something from this level of precision writing.
Actually, when it’s time for the credits, Edge of Tomorrow feels too small. It’s given so much as to seemingly bleed itself out. Tomorrow feels like a feature barely reaching 80 minutes (when it’s actually 113) and ready to chug along for another half hour. Bourne director Doug Liman stands behind the lens of an aggressive work, primed with endless intangibles and splendid energy. Fantasic.
If the loose term “Warner encode” seems drilled into text in excess, don’t blame anyone but the studio. Edge of Tomorrow is latest visibly bitrate-starved release which takes the source material and at times mangles it with splotchy noise, glossy motion, and pitiful compression parameters – pitiful in the sense that there lies little mystery in how mindlessly this was compressed. Mere weeks after Paramount astounded with the latest Transformers ruckus, Warner does… this. Of course, this feature is not in the same cinematography quarters as a Micheal Bay film. The comparison seems idiotic, but we’re dealing purely in considerations of the transfer work.
Warner’s film is often dreary, with a low dynamic range due to post production color tinkering. Whites fizzle from the impact of teals or oranges in the brightest sequences, leaving the effect of somewhat soggy gamma levels. Impact isn’t here, but that’s fine. The design is intact and clearly intended to dampen a world under repetitive assault. In the same way, black levels are often dimmed without their full strength, although this is less punishing than dimming sun coated skylines. There’s enough depth to survive.
And sure, there is fidelity. In close, images are powerful and well resolved. Any time the screen isn’t lit up in complexities or the camera work isn’t stretched wide in the 2.35:1 frame, Edge of Tomorrow has all of the digital power it needs. Sweat, pores, dirt, grime; the look of a high-end production is there. Seeing the minutiae applied to the battle suits makes their creation a further stand out.
The battle is waged in medium shots. Maybe not in the midst of action (and there is a ton of it) where missiles are flying by and explosions are commonplace. Those shots and editing which stitch them together is too fast for a distraction. In others, where the film has settled into the midst of exposition or funny dialog, the blending of a beautiful film source and AVC encoding collides. Grain smears to where it’s difficult to parse it out as grain rather than digital noise. Smearing is inexcusably periodic. Faces appear washed with glossy wax. In motion, this is like clockwork for Warner’s home video division and that type of expectation is unfortunate. While a touch less recurrent than it has been in previous years, the Warner encode is still a thing, and until they’re consistently called out for it, they may never change.
On the flip side, while the 3D may carry the same complications of noise and noticeable compression, the actual stereoscopic conversion work is a marvel. Depth in dialog scenes can only be considered extravagant, with layers of background objects and forceful foreground elements. It could be argued Edge of Tomorrow stretches too far in some close-ups as to be uncomfortable, but these moments are brief.
Some cross talk will be inevitable regardless of display quality. It’s a minimal complaint. Action scenes dizzy with their bevy of missiles and flying vehicles forcing their way into the frame. Debris from strewn dirt or pieces of crashing vehicles are tremendously close to the frame’s front. Training segments, with spinning blade machines whipping into the lens, add aggressiveness. This is the rare live action conversion unafraid of pushing limits while doing so consistently.
Exemplary action design helps this disc technically recover from its video failures, boosted by the wealth of shoot outs, training scenes, and other fights. While arguably not as dynamically bold or aggressive as some others (particularly in the low-end), this 7.1 mix for Edge of Tomorrow is smart. Precision work is everywhere, and variety allows audio designers a pleasant play space. Towering missile launches, ship crashes, alien screeches, and even training dummies posses a vivid wrap-around effect which utilizes the added bulk of four rear channels to create extensive panning motion. Sweeping effects are superb.
Edge of Tomorrow knows when to downplay as well. Late, in an underwater sequence, sound design utilizes almost total ambiance rather than trying to justify the massiveness of the brawl taking place. That’s refreshing. The front soundstage is also in the battle for space, bringing together a sizable military base with PA speakers blended across the stereos with soldiers marching in preparation into the rears. All of this creates a full world without any holes except that slim subwoofer punch.
While many of the bonuses feel pulled from the realm of EPKs, there is a definite winner in On the Edge with Doug Liman. While the praise is high, this 42-minute look at Liman’s work behind-the-scenes is often fantastic. Detail and dedication are on display which paints Liman as a filmmaker focused on small details and creativeness.
Operation Downfall cuts together the beach invasion as a single piece (it’s split up in the movie) with full 7.1 audio support. Joining it is Storming the Beach, a nine minute piece on putting together said beach scene. Weapons of the Future details the struggles of making practical suits and the weapons included on them. Creatures not of This World is all alien-based, with a series of deleted scenes following up. All together, this pairs up for a touch over a half hour.
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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.