A brief review before the review:
ABOUT THE FILM
The idea of the Movie Man a couple of decades ago was for a highly-educated person (the Movie Man, of course) to give the common man an unbiased account (well, mostly) of one of the bigger releases each week – all the while eschewing critics-only previews.
The Movie Man settles in with everyday folk at normal screenings – sticky floors, old popcorn, screaming brats, text messaging teens and all. He is just like you … only with a gigantic brain stuffed with detailed cinematic knowledge.
Sometimes the Movie Man, especially when there are multiple major releases in a week (like in the summertime and in Nov.-Dec.), must decide between enticing pictures. That’s why he occasionally misses what turns out to be a big hit. (For instance, the Movie Man chose “Mystery Men” [1999, a 5, a Ben Stiller superhero spoof] over “The Sixth Sense.”)
This is one of those weeks where a pair of substantial releases hit at the same time and where the “unbiased account(s) (well, mostly)” comes in. Choosing between “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Edge of Tomorrow” was easy for the Movie Man; he will always pick a science-fiction movie over a disease-of-the-week film.
“Fault” has proven to be a gargantuan hit as millions of teen girls are pouring into the tearjerker. Meanwhile, “Tomorrow” is going to fall far short of “Fault” in theater take. So, the Movie Man’s bias sent him to the lesser movie this week.
Like everyone, the Movie Man is less attracted to some movies than others. He’s not crazy about westerns, war movies, bullying movies and squishy romantic comedies. (Of course, the Movie Man is constantly making exceptions for those genres and will continue to do so.)
But this week, sci-fi aced out a young adult cry-athon. Don’t be surprised if that happens again.
Major Cage (Tom Cruise) does public relations for the military, trying to convince nations that mankind is finally turning the tide against the aliens that are overrunning Earth. A major victory came when Rita (Emily Blunt) helped slaughter the enemy, Mimics, in a crucial battle.
But the cocky, cowardly Cruise is sent to the front lines when he gets on the wrong side of General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson). He has zero battle experience, yet is thrown in with the guys who will fight the first wave in a major offensive.
On the ground and ignorant – he can’t even get his weapon off safety – he is killed when a mortally injured “alpha” Mimic dies and bleeds on him. Suddenly, Cruise awakens 24 hours earlier, the day he was sent to the recruit camp.
Back on the battlefield, he dies again. And awakens again. On one of the time loops, he meets Blunt while fighting. She says to find her when he wakes up. After they die, Cruise discovers Blunt was a “looper” too – until she got a transfusion and the alien blood left her body.
Cruise must always die; he can’t just be injured. Eventually, they determine that the way to beat the Mimics is to find and destroy the brain that runs all its subordinate creatures. That proves to be a daunting task.
Love him or hate him, Cruise is a movie star who is great on screen. He’s fantastic here, too. Whether he’s playing smarmy or getting hammered while training or being a killing machine, every role is strong.
Blunt also is pretty good. And so is the drill sergeant (Bill Paxton) that Cruise sees every day right off the bat; Paxton, from Fort Worth, provides a lot of comic relief that actually works. (“Maleficent,” take note.)
Computer generation has gotten so believable that it seems impossible that it can keep getting better. But it does – every scene in “Tomorrow” is eye-popping. The 3-D isn’t essential, but you’ll be rewarded with a couple of very impressive sequences if you buy up.
There are also some laughs when during Cruise’s intense training, Blunt has to keep killing him after he suffers big-time injuries. She just sighs and pulls the trigger, over and over until he gets it right.
Cruise and his “buddies” are dropped into the war zone from above. The carnage is immediate and incredible. Horrified and completely out of his element, Cruise watches everyone get slaughtered as the relentless Mimics pour over them.
The scenes, by director Doug Liman (three “Bourne” movies), are fantastically frenetic and loud and dizzying, groovy in 3-D. It’s a remarkable 10 minutes, culminating when Cruise meets his demise and gains his looping powers.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
It’s hard to tell if “Tomorrow” is pilfering from other movies or just borrowing. There’s a lot of “The Matrix” here, and the creatures are “Alien”-esque. Then there’s the plot that mimics (yeah, the Movie Man said it) “Groundhog Day” and the lesser-known “Time Code.”
The first 70 minutes or so of “Tomorrow” are so good that a letdown is inevitable. The manner in which Cruise/Blunt’s team manages to find and access the ultimate alien brain is stretching it. But that’s the beauty of sci-fi.
Still, the Movie Man wasn’t crazy about the ending.
This is a classic PG-13: lots of creature vs. human action with substantial carnage with a few cuss words sprinkled in.
No matter how much “Fault” rakes in from its repeat viewings from 14-year-olds, right now “Tomorrow” is the best movie of the year so far. It’s funny, action-packed, a bit of a thinker and thrilling.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2.”