Monday, August 25, 2014

All You Need Is Kill

I've kept watch on the career of Doug Liman for practically as long as I've grown up with the movies. Swingers (1996) and Go (1999) were fun in my teens. The Bourne Identity (2002) and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005) were larger escalating Hollywood action star vehicles that seemed like he'd lost his individuality or voice.

But now Jumper (2008), along with his new Tom Cruise movie, look like Liman has found a niche with intimate interior conflicts in protagonists who are somewhat reluctantly thrown into a life with new super powers. I know, I'm into it too.

Fortunately for me I actually got to walk into the theatre for this with no idea what the plot was about.

Okay, so I might have remembered scanning across the term Groundhog Day somewhere.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014, Doug Liman) is Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day. (Okay I should confess I think a good friend of mine told me this a while back and I forgot.)

Oh and Edge of Tomorrow is based on a Japanese source novel called All You Need Is Kill, which I know nothing about whatsoever, but man is that an awesome title--I can't figure out why any distributors would want to change that title here in the US but I ignore it and always think of this movie as All You Need Is Kill.

All You Need Is Kill (2014, Doug Liman) stars Tom Cruise as, great casting here, an asshole officer who wants to avoid combat so in the first few minutes he's thrown right up into the front lines of a huge battle. He pulls it off. It's like the whole time he's a fish out of water, but Cruise is also not exactly the young action star he once was, so that parallel is crucial to the drama.

I'd only just seen Emily Blunt in a movie earlier in the week, The Five-Year Engagement (2012, Nicholas Stoller) but I fell in love with her totally in that. In All You Need Is Kill she's some average citizen who overnight becomes a military hero who annihilates thousands of mimics in combat. (Mimics aren't really important, they're bad guys that are very dangerous.) Blunt's got blond hair this time out and she's so spritely a waif and since a lot of this movie takes place in Paris and other parts of France, she feels a lot like Joan of Arc.

Bill Paxton is like the Ned Needlemeyer of Grounhog Day and he keeps reciting some lines about battle being the great redeemer, the fiery crucible, the only place where true heroes are formed, the one place were all men truly share... blah... blah... blah... But he's got a Kentucky accent and as staff sergeant makes the movie feel like it takes place during the Civil War, which is fun. Also it's nice to see this military group with enormous obstacles ahead in their mission and even more enormous artillery to deal with it setting in someone other that James Cameron's hands. The Paxton-Cruise scenes are genuinely funny, in an otherwise somber action movie.

This movie is like if the Groundhog Day template was refined by Stephen Hawking and turned into a script that fully utilizes that discovery. I mean every which way you can imagine. A disturbing part of All You Need Is Kill is the tendency in some training exercises to reset (by killing yourself or having someone else kill you) and effectively resulting in scenes where some characters die several gruesome deaths in a few quick moments.

There is one tender moment during this where the Cruise character stares at the Blunt character for a few seconds the morning after one of her gruesome resets; however, she is totally oblivious and we the audience of course, are the only ones to get what he feels.

Cruise's go to, or his Q, for the weapons and strategies he needs is played by Noah Taylor. All You Need Is Kill feels a lot like Vanilla Sky (2001, Cameron Crowe) in the way Cruise plays a protagonist in a world that is not our own yet so close, and we attempt to understand its rules as a plot device. Noah Taylor functions in a very similar role to Cruise in Vanilla Sky.

The best part of this story, while it's got a great plot, is Cruise's character arc. By the end, around that third act, after he's been through it all and out of time to mess around, when he's become cynical, bitter, hardened, and that soldier asks him,"are you drunk?" we really feel like he cares about shit.

Although one minor potential plot hole for me was that device that the Noah Taylor character gives Cruise that helps him see the real vision of where the Omega is. Did I miss something? Should I need to know more about he just happened to succeed in perfecting this technology?

The opening invasion scene is amazing and the repulsion out of the plane by the flying soldiers is as cool as Jumper's aerial action scenes. Doug Liman's doing interesting work with these two and I think he'll follow up with some more soon.


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