Sci-Fi/Action, 113 Minutes, 2014
I’m having some trouble. I am absolutely convinced that I reviewed this movie months ago. More than that, I remember really liking my review of it. I remember it being clever and funny and insightful – one of my best, really.
Apparently, I never did it. Or, I did it and lost it somehow. Or, I just dreamed I did it. In any case, I can’t find it. So here I go… again?
This is an amazingly good movie. Yes, it took a crap at the box office for reasons not worth wasting time on, but that doesn’t say a thing about the quality of the film. The last sci-fi film that I fell in love with, Judge Dredd [my review], was also in this unfortunate position. Is it me?
The setting is a near future where much of the world has been overrun by a voracious horde of rampaging, tentacled aliens called “mimics” for no particular reason. In a not so subtle homage to the D-Day invasion, Earth’s allied forces are preparing a massive assault on the European mainland in a last-ditch attempt to break the alien advance.
Tom Cruise [IMDB], in his best role in years, plays Cage. He’s a sleazy, cowardly army public relations expert that pisses off the general in charge and gets his noncombatant ass thrown into a first-wave infantry platoon as a deserter on the eve of the counter-invasion. Unable to weasel his way out, he’s dropped on the beach to live or, more probably, die quickly.
He stumbles into killing an exceptionally large, unusual mimic and is covered in its blood. He’s then immediately killed… and wakes up the day before, back on that base being accused of being a deserter. He winds up back on the beach, dead again… and wakes up back at the base the day before.
Yes, this is a sci-fi version of “Groundhog Day“, one of my favorite movies of all time. Wonderfully, it’s not only completely comfortable with this, but clearly respectful of it as well. Most simply, both Emily Blunt’s [IMDB] bad-ass marine here and Andie MacDowell [IMDB] in Groundhog Day are named “Rita”.
Cage soon discovers that Rita had also stolen this bizarre power from the invaders, but lost it. She believes that there is a way to win the war if only they can survive the beach. Although she forgets Cage each day, they begin to train together to survive the unsurvivable situation.
Just like Bill Murray [IMDB] in Groundhog Day, Cage must first learn to navigate his immediate situation and manipulate people with his knowledge of the future. He then focuses on training and, in the process, becomes a better person. There’s even a painful lesson on the futility of trying to best death.
Far from being a weakness, these similarities are one of the greatest strengths of the movie. The story is worn, but comfortable. The audience, most of whom have the good sense to adore “Groundhog Day”, is set immediately at ease.
The chemistry between Blunt and Cruise is solid and believable. Blunt is also amazing at making Cruise her monkey-bitch. Their relationship – with him remembering everything and her remembering nothing – evolves meaningfully from mentor-student to equal partners. Their progress feels real and hard-won.
The solid story is backed up with equally impressive effects. The aliens are generically monstrous, but fluid and beautiful. They move like you’d imagine a disease or a virus to move. The exo-skeleton battle-suits used by the soldiers are futuristic, but still plausible. They simultaneously celebrate man’s ingenuity and bemoan his weakness.
This movie has something for everyone. It’s easily one of the best sci-fi movies of the past decade. It’s high-concept and smart and you might spend finish, as I did, by hours discussing the wild and wonderful world of time-loops. It also kicks serious ass. So, if you’re not in the mood to discuss temporal mechanics, you can easily sit back and enjoy Emily Blunt slaughtering squid aliens with a giant sword.