Verdict: 3.5 / 5
On the verge of certain victory against an alien invasion, allied forces plan a final massive ground level attack, but one last mysterious secret weapon is revealed and humanities last hope against it, is an unwilling advertising agent.
The much hyped Tom Cruise feature film is based on a 2004 Japanese Novel, “All You Need Is Kill”, with the saga beginning with a familiar background story; alien invasion. A meteorite lands and spawns formidable, invertebrate monsters, dubbed “Mimics”. With incredibly agile and powerful ground level force they spread out over Europe. The response by the world’s armies is to fortify the strength of soldiers with exoskeleton suites. Five years have past and the previous battles were championed a by strangely tiny woman, Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt from Looper and Adjustment Bureau). The lack of fighting stature indicates some sort of special ability she must posses to be able to slaughter such formidable creatures in their drones. Her fame and achievement is manipulated and used to recruit hundreds of new soldiers, by military advertising specialist Lt. Col. Bill Cage (Tom Cruise). On the eve of this final skirmish General Brigham, orders him to join the forces on the ground on the beaches of France, to get first hand experience of the troops, their exoskeletons and their fortitude. Having never set foot in a real gunfight, Cage attempts blackmailing his way out of it, but only enrages the General and gets himself demoted to Private and shipped out to the forward camp on England’s east coast. He wakes to the rambunctious barrage of his new drill sergeant who, being told he’s a deserter, tosses him to the J-Squad, a group of misfit marines, lacking refinement, but rich in courage.
In no time at all, Cage is dropped on the shores of France where the battle is actually a massacre. Ambushed, out-numbered and out-flanked, soldiers drop like flies. Cage fails in every way to defend himself, comically confused by the high–tech suite, he clumsily comes face to face with a different variety of Mimic; a rare, blue “Alpha”. Cage scrambles for a weapon, slays the beast and is covered in its blue goop, but in the process killing himself.
He wakes up, to the rambunctious barrage of his new drill sergeant who, being told he’s a deserter, tosses him to the J-Squad, a group of misfit marines, lacking refinement, but rich in courage. Completely confused but still incarcerated by military impressment he lands up on the beach again, only to be killed again. He wakes up, to the rambunctious barrage of his new drill sergeant… etc. Caught in this loop, it’s not long before he finds the one person he is sure can help him figure it all out, but mostly just to help him to escape the beach carnage; the legendary Vrataski. She reveals her secret to her past success, and that he now possesses that power; the ability to time-travel. A new mission emerges, to escape the beach, find the alien’s home base and destroy the “Omega”, the all-controlling alien brain.
Every new day begins with his death from the following day, and with every new iteration they get farther off the beach and further into the mission, learning from their previous mistakes. This monotony leaves you wondering how he mustered the will power to keep trying, and on a few occasions he does give up. As a viewer you are taken up into this emotion as you find yourself irritated by the slow pace and repetition of the middle scenes. The familiar dialogue, which starts out as fun banter, becomes tedious and quite annoying. This is a perfect representation and metaphor for the futility of war. There is a familiarity in the styling, language and scenes of the beach invasion as a take on the real world 1944 Allied invasion at Normandy against the German controlled France in World War II on the same coastline. The pointlessness of ground level combat comes out as you find yourself hoping that the story would just change slightly for the better.
Thankfully it quickly advances after a certain stage and moves into much more intrigue and action, as well as a quiet, subtle romance. The growing affections between Cage and Vrataski are pretty one sided as their relationship is driven by Cage’s admirations alone, because each new day she’s only just met him. The J-Squad bands together and joins the mission, adorned with their personalised gun suits, to become the typical, expendable one-sided characters needed as a distraction for the enemy in the closing battle. The exo-skeletons are a strange mix of low and high tech instruments with the familiar wining joint movements, clanking steps and guns that pop out on top, from nowhere.
The Mimics are brilliant. At first they appear to be like a Symbiote from Marvel’s Spiderman, but are electro-chemical skeletal legged creatures later. They don’t speak, but are revealed to have individuality and sense of rank and are intriguingly sly.
The final scenes are an excellent crescendo of explosions, outrageous physics and death defying falls, all you need for a fun ending, unlike the start. The film begins with a clichéd, mash-up of fuzzy news feeds and voice-overs giving the background story of the current war. These five minutes are a perfect metaphor for the story to come, a mix-up of all the cool parts of at least five other blockbuster movies of the past. There’s the relentless repetition of Groundhog Day, but with a mission like Sourcecode. There’s the overdone mechanical suit idea of Robocop, Spider-man 2, Avatar, Matrix Revolutions, District 9, Elysium, The Wolverine and G.I. Joe, which are all just low-level Iron Man. This is all inside the same old asteroid invasion, alien mega-brain, marine corp, mess of misfit soldiers, plot from Starship Troopers, with a little bit of 50 First Dates thrown in.
There is nothing new under the sun, and no story does not reference or take from another story that came before it. This is, unfortunately, exceptionally true for the writers of this novel-turned-film. So the let down is the unoriginality but having said that, and even with all its faults and tedious repetition, somehow it all comes together really beautifully in a story that is quite gripping. It leaves one deeply emotionally involved and at the edge of the seat. The fragility of life is so enhanced in the last quarter that with every move Cage makes you want to cringe, leaving you squeezing the life out of your box of astros and ignoring your now lukewarm coke. It’s well done, as extremely entertaining. The original casting was for Brad Pitt as lead, but only Tom Cruise could have extricated it, and he did so, very well.