Logline: An officer who has never seen combat is forced into a suicide mission against an alien race that has attacked Earth. When he is killed, he finds himself waking up over and over again to live out the same battle.
Genre: Science Fiction
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt
I love a good sic fi film, especially if it has aliens and a massive battle or two. And this film is great! The special effects and the battle scenes are really evenly paced, exciting, visually interesting and move the plot forward or build suspense in ways that draw you further into the film, not just satisfy your desire for spectacle. I love that the alien race are just that: they’re nothing like people, they’re a kind of twisting metal maw of death streaming towards you. They’re not humanoid at all, which makes them quite other, and yet subtle things, the way they protect each other or plan attacks, make them emotive and not just some swarm attacking, but a very real threat.
More importantly, the performances and chemistry between all the characters is believable and well played out. Emily Blunt is consistently a good actor, I think, though she always seems to be playing a sort of aloof type. But Tom Cruise really reminded me in this film of why he became such a major player in the 80’s. Even though he seems to be drawn to mainly action films of late, in this film, you really see his character grow as a person, from being a desk bound member of the military to being thrown into the chaos of war and the front line, he becomes a tougher, more likeable character. It’s one of his better performances of late. There is also a supporting cast of a small platoon, and even though each one doesn’t get loads of screen time, they are all individually drawn and psychologically believable characters. You care about what happens in this film to every single person.
I think I was drawn in as well by the mechanised armour that the soldiers wear. I guess they’re classic Japanese cartoon stuff, really, much like the suits in Pacific Rim or Robotech on a smaller scale. They’re basically just really cool. But their gunmetal tones and the overall drab colours and bleak setting of this film really give the sense of impending darkness and gloom. The future doesn’t look bright.
Perhaps what makes this film work overall is the unusual plot. As the logline above says, Cage (Tom Cruise) is living his death over and over. But this isn’t Groundhog Day or Source Code, the plot does not simply repeat until the foolish man finally gets it and grows as a person. OK, it’s a bit like that, BUT (without spoiling anything for you) this film is neither predictable nor repetitive. It has strong plot points that lead to a logical conclusion without giving away where it’s going to take you next, it has loads of humour, suspense and bittersweetness, and very clever pacing, that lead you through it, keep you interested and emotionally engaged. And the aliens are epic. See this film, I think you’ll like it.